MYSTERY SEA 39 | asher
| [the depths, the colors, the objects & the silence]
" ...this heavy air of unmoving clouds, the blue of the sky stained
with transparent white. the office boy, at the back of the office, suspends
for a moment the cord going round the eternal package...
'how [...] it is,' he statistically comments.
a cold silence. the sounds from the street as if cut by a knife.
a cosmic supension of breathing was felt, like a generalized uneasiness.
the entire universe had stop dead. moments, moments, moments...
the darkness blackened itself with silence. suddenly, live steel, (...)
how human the metallic peal of the trams !
how happy the landscape of rain hitting the street resurrected from
the abyss !... "
- Fernando Pessoa,
'The Book Of Disquietude' (1982)
asher thal-nir resides
in Somerville, Massachusetts... in recent years, he has emerged as one
of the most interesting & singular sound artist, shaping aural microlandscapes
of a new nature...
His works are based on recordings of acoustic & electronic instruments,
manipulated location & found recordings... He already saw a lot
of his sound miniature studies published on various well known netlabels
(12k/Term, Laboratoire Moderne, Con-V...) and had some CD-Rs out on
Con-V & Leeraum... he is also about to launch his own label named
asher thal-nir feeds
his music with the everyday sounds as a root for emotional stimulus...
it uncoils nonchalantly in long eroded tapes of granular texture &
uneven surfaces, dust varnished ribbons...
the emphasis lays often on scratches & tears put to the fore, tending
to draw an extremely minimal rhythmic structure, mirror of a frailty
& language of invisibility...
On "the depths, the colors, the objects and the silence",
asher embraces an hazy ocean of memory, tracing a path
Things are perceived through a numb veil, carrying the residues of a
former superficial life, trying to connect with an evanescent world,
an inner frame...
This is a sort of reverse microcosm...
For this shift in meaning, abandon all preconceptions & thoughts
of usual grasp... you'll then be able to "rewrite" the book,
and feel differently...
01. partly framed
02. the blue gently linked
03. plastic dusk
VITAL WEEKLY 582|Frans
It's been quiet for a while for
Asher Thal-nir from Somerville, Massachusetts, who has produced
an interesting string of recordings, mainly for netlabels and CDR
labels such as Con-V, Leerraum, Earlabs and Term. Here he returns
with three long pieces that are totally like the Asher
we know, and not very much alike the recent releases on Mystery Sea.
It fits however well on that label. Asher takes field
recordings of every day life, maybe even as simply as hanging a microphone
out the window and picking up the sound, feeding it directly into
his computer, feeding it through his filters and cooking up an austere,
hermetically closed mass of sound. Microsound in optima forma. It's
hissy, scratchy and blurry - and while those three terms may have
negative connotations, there are all to be seen in a positive manner.
It may not sound hip and fresh, as Asher's music
stays firmly in the well fitted areas of microsound (with strong nod
to the work of William Basinski), but the three pieces capture a great
ambient mood. Thoroughly digital, which may sets itself apart from
some of the more sub aquatic releases on Mystery Sea, it all makes
perfect sense to make this a release on this by now well respected
Doing so much with so very little is a signature
of Asher’s Spartan-like minimalism in sound art,
and his poetic approach to sound composition is reflected in the titles
of the three tracks on The Depths, The Colors, The Objects &
The Silence which could be metaphors for the passing of a day:
“Partly Framed in Sunlight” - early morning, “The
Blue Gently Linked” - midday, and “Plastic Dusk” -
early evening. Listening to The Depths, The Colors, The Objects
& The Silence was an unexpected tangent to the more typical
Mystery Sea release of deep “night-ocean drones” that submerge
you in sound. The sounds here are subtle, minimal, discreet, grainy,
incidental, and dense and their effects will be more personal.
Beyond a persistent, static layer of vinyl crackle and droning machine
hum, the three tracks found on The Depths, The Colors, The Objects
& The Silence are composed of layers of intentional field
recordings, accidental secondary sounds, segments of gentle musicality,
and (possibly) samples from Asher's own works. Even
though the individual pieces reveal different sounds, there is enough
similarity between tracks to bring a strong sense continuity to the
There are two things that are especially important to fully appreciating
Asher’s compositions - inspiration and emotion. In a
recent interview with Rare Frequency , Asher remarked
that “I try to mostly find inspiration in the incidental sounds
and events around me, whether they are musical or environmental;”
and in an earlier EARLabs interview he commented that “Sound carries
very strong emotional attachment and affects people very powerfully,
I try to create work which is meaningful and communicates something.”
On this album, it’s the incidental/mundane sounds that seem to
have a special significance - sirens, traffic sounds, dogs barking,
children playing, voices. One of Asher’s compositional
techniques is to take his electronically derived sounds and play them
over a speaker in his studio while simultaneously recording them with
a microphone. In this way, all kinds of secondary sounds from inside
the building or outside his window are accidentally captured and become
an intrinsic part of the recording. I’ve achieved a similar effect
in the past by playing one of Asher’s compositions
over my media player’s speakers with windows wide open collecting
all of the environmental sounds from outside. The sounds often coalesce
so well that you soon find that it’s difficult to distinguish
between the sounds inherent to the recording from those that are external.
I’ve written about Asher Thal-nir’s
music several times over the last couple of years, with some enthusiasm,
but his remains a name I don’t hear pop up with much regularity
on the new music scene. What’s a critic to do? Well, I guess just
to keep pounding home the notion that he’s someone to listen to,
an artist who consistently creates enjoyable, stimulating and probing
work. His most recent (issued in a batch
of 100 to take advantage of the undoubted groundswell of support this
review will occasion) might be my favorite work of his to date. Three
longish pieces, each drawing on a similar mode of construction but each
of a subtly different hue. As near as I can tell, the underlying sounds
here derive from field recordings though I get the impression that physical
markings and disturbances on the tape itself also play a part. Superficially
almost featureless, they in fact contain all the hundreds of details
you’d find on a “blank” wall, or simply on a recording
of a quiet, semi-urban backyard. Whatever their origin, they seem to
have been chosen carefully (or carefully uncarefully) to transmit a
granular calm, relatively untroubled but with an anticipatory edge lurking
just below the surface. Voices and traffic noises peek through here
and there though generally one is only aware of a kind of background
hum, the low buzz of the modern environment. Over and through these
tapes, Asher layers vaporous washes of semi-tonal electronic sound of
long duration, pulsing very slowly. On the last track, it seems he’s
only adding a faint bell, which is exactly enough. The pieces unspool
in no hurry, filling the temporal interstices like a gas.
Lovely, contemplative work, even better
than looking and listening out your back window.
WONDERFUL WOODEN REASONS|Ian
Asher delves into
the underbelly of experimental sounds producing three heavily textured
pieces of music. They straddle the divide between found-sound soundscaping
and field-recordings. Very little happens over the course of the album,
tones and voices come and go, yet it is massively dense. Asher's
is the music of the butterfly collector. The world becomes the butterfly
pinned to the board, scrutinized and examined to the accompaniment of
the fluttering of it's wings. It's a hard and long listening experience
with little let up in the crushing bleakness of the atmosphere's created
and indeed it is hard to find reasons to recommend it to you on musical
terms but, there is a compulsion to it that keeps me listening. Whether
that compulsion is based on curiosity or enjoyment I've yet to decide.
wonderful wooden reasons
I always wondered how many people really possess
the inner ability to become connected to the sounds that accompany their
existence, up to the point of stopping in their tracks to attribute
a value to each one of them, since everything that ears receive stamps
some significance in our memory. Asher's music speaks
to those very reminiscences, teaching us how to become aware of the
world around us without being forced to keep note of things that happen.
Printed in a 100-copy limited edition, this album contains three long
tracks whose intimacy is oddly in contrast with the basic sources used,
which mostly comprise urban environmental backgrounds that include voices
from the road, passing cars, police sirens and distant calls. The whole
is shrouded by the composer's trademark veil of hiss and digital dirtiness
which, together with weak emissions between synthesis and shortwave,
parallels the scene to an autumnal day observed from within the shop
we hastily entered because we were surprised by the rain. On paper,
one would figure these desolated ambiences as generating a sense of
oppression, or at least communicating some measure of dejection; instead,
Asher's soundscapes are capable of lifting some of
the weight off our shoulders, all the while sweeping aside any residual
consideration about aesthetical necessities. This music is not made
of nail-biting apprehension, but transmits a few unequivocal messages
that highlight short-haul flights to different kinds of enlightenment.
Still, we manage to soil ourselves over the course of life, surrendering
to a tangible indifference for something that one day we'll regret not
to have considered more attentively.
There are moments when you suddenly realize the
overwhelming beauty and a wonderful sense of organization and necessity
in a world otherwise perceived as chaotic, tumultuous and generally
unfriendly. It can happen in a supermarket, in the heat of the Grand
Canyon at noon, while drinking your morning cup of coffee or while watching
a soccer game in a packed stadium. On “the depths, the
colors, the objects & the silence”,
it happens when you open your window to the noises outside, to the holler
on the streets in the heart of the city.
This not only mirrors a general development within the experimental
electronic community of incorporating the sounds around us in a concrete
and recognizable way instead of alluding to them with musical metaphors.
It is also a recognizable tendency of the work of Asher
Thal-Nir over the last couple of releases. More and
more, his music is leaving the realms of abstraction and turning towards
concretion, palpability and recognition. On “Graceful Degradation”,
old tape recordings of Asher playing a worn-out piano
sent sensitive postcards from the past and “Invisible Landscapes”
harked back to melody and harmony. With “the depths...”,
an album which sits comfortably between its two predecessors, only harmony
has survived and entered a relationship with urban field recordings
of people walking, muffled voices, cars driving by and aeroplanes hovering
in the distance. Thal-Nir builds all of his tracks
using these raw noises as a basis, adding a single element only per
piece and gradually increasing the viscosity, sometimes lingering in
the same sensation for more than twenty minutes. It is not structural
development that guides his gaze, but occurrences, the will of the moment.
On “partly framed in sunlight” and “the blue gently
linked”, this creative spark will manifests itself in fleetingly
shimmering harmonics, fibrosive chords hanging in the air like the scent
of a sweet perfume or the smell of flowers. On “plastic dusk”,
then, all that remains is a faint beacon, a warm hum that is as comforting
as a lullaby or a hot water bottle.
As with previous efforts, “the depths, the colors, the
objects & the silence” feeds from the strict adherence
to a sole principle, from the idea that all of these scenes are actual
and real, because they are subject to the same catalyst. Its real charm,
however, stems from the way that Asher crafts the tracks,
drawing the listener’s attention to hidden links and connected
cycles between the constituent elements of his field recordings by the
mere addition of a brush stroke. In his world, the streets are singing
softly – in yours, too, if you open the windows and allow the
city into your heart.
new arrivals #276
Another gorgeously subdued missive from one
of our favorite cd-r labels, Mystery Sea. Each release somehow fits
into the label's focus on "night-ocean drones" whether literally,
sonically, conceptually or spiritually. And every disc impeccably designed
and packaged, the artwork as much a part of the art as the music inside.
This installment (one of two on this week's list) comes from the East
Coast, Massachusetts to be exact, from a one man band known only as
Asher. One of the better-known artists to release a record
on Mystery Sea, Asher, focuses on field recordings,
processed and manipulated into fantastic minimal microlandscapes of
sound, creating textures and melodies, spreading found sounds and bits
of generated music into long-form, slow-moving near static drones. But
closer examination reveals all sorts of subtle rhythms, and constantly
changing tonal colors, deep swells and distant shimmers, keening slivers
of amp skree, but smeared into glistens rather than glares, the sounds
of people and things, barely visible through the glorious blurry fuzz.
Really quite lovely. Very close listening is definitely required, but
the listener will be suitably rewarded by a beautiful and haunting otherworld
MACHINE | Roger Batty
: 3 stars out of 5
Depths, the Colours, the objects & the silence stands as
one of the more stripped-down and eerier releases of the often already
minimalist ambient label Mystery Sea. The three tracks here are built
around edgy field recordings, slow haunted harmonic synth unfold and
a real feeling of disquiet and abandonment.
This really is ambient in its true quiet form and needs to be played
in a quite and noise-less environment. The three twenty minute tracks
develop at an organic snail pace, often the melodic haunted harmonic
elements not appearing until a good few minutes into the tracks. The
real focus here are the crackling, rustling and settling field recordings
which could be anything from fire sounds, wind, rain or traffic noise
that are built into repetitive, sometime rhythmic and often dense yet
quiet sonicscapes. There’s also use of muffled dialog and other off
in the distant sounds that you have to strain to make out. Feeling at
times like a more striped down version of some Hoor-Paar-Kraat sound
collage work, this is ambient music/ sound craft that needs real commitment
and time to understand what’s trying to be done here - this is
certainly not back ground music.
An album that grows more rewarding with time as you uncovering more
sound detail and atmospheric sonic detail, giving the listener the feeling
of been an intrepid audio explore in an eerier, strange out of focus
WIRE #286 - Outer Limits|Jim
For Massachusetts artist Asher
Thal-Nir, the field recordings is less of a documentary process
and more of a subjective device capable of retaining any number of emotional
cues or poetic allusions. Here, he manifests a grey din of amplified
dust and static through commonplace sounds of wintry drizzle, urban
street sounds and foghorns. His soft-focused recordings mirror the patina
from old photographs, alluding to forgotten or unknowable
memories. Through the gossamer haze, subtle details of his recorded
landscape emerge : a muffled voice on the street below or a motorcycle
speeding away. Even when set in gentle motion through a twin note flutter
of quiet tonalities, the hushed noise of Asher's audio
patina is the constant element of the album, a vaguely familiar, vaguely
foreign agent reaching for a sentiment of antiquity.
installment #15 - December 07 | Alan Lockett
With this trio of recordings, Belgian experimental
ambient/drone label Mystery Sea have now reached the fortieth installment
of their now six-year lifespan. Each limited edition CDR release comes
decked out with full color matching artwork themed with its musical
content. In fact two of these three tie themselves in explicitly with
not just visuals but with the wider theme of a mystery sea. First up,
though, the one that got away: The Depths, the Colors, the Objects
and the Silence is more brimful of Asher than
the expected “night ocean drones” trailed by the MS website
banner. Asher Thal-Nir’s materials are no more
nor less "dark” than those of his roster-mates, but rather
more austere, dried up, less of an indulgent audio-bath; not so much
lo-fi as no-fi, and barely musical, like some fly-on-the-wall environmental
audio-documentary with sparse traces of post-production authoring. To
illustrate, a signature Asher technique involves him
playing his own electronically-generated sounds quietly over a speaker
while simultaneously recording the ambient whole with a dangled mike.
The ensuing soundscape comes out scrawled over with all manner of peripheralia
from the room (ambient hum and tape hiss), the building (fleeting voices),
the street (sirens, traffic sounds) and the sky (passing jet engines).
Filtered and laptop-scrunched, 90 percent of these hermetic swathes’
content could be described in terms of a high end of grainy static that
goes ‘hiss-buzz-crackle’ and a low end of liminal crawl
motion that goes ‘hum-drone-rumble’. But frequency highs
and lows are not salient to Asher’s enquiry,
with all being reduced to a nondescript middle, laying down a prickly
blanket of remote isolationist discomfort. The three pieces capture
a mood of blankness emptied out of all colour but monochrome greys and,
paradoxically for an art drawn from life, drained of nearly all vitality.
On “Partly framed in sunlight” and “The blue gently
linked”, at least a few attenuated tones, miraculously unestranged
from harmony, hang in the air; a few half-there Basinskian keyboard
slivers relieving an insistent layer of enshrouding enviro-detritus
and digi-dirt, but they’re as if flowers sprouting at the edge
of a refuse heap. The listener could be in some existential update of
Kafkaesque bleakness, in which a veil of anhedonia cuts off the protagonist
from the fullness of experience. Make of it what you will, but it’s
certainly thin gruel for the audiophile.
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