CNVR12 | 17.11.2006
format: CDR | packaging: discbox slider
duration: 53 minutes, 4 tracks
limited to 100 numbered copies
'Outside in the slow night by the light of the moon, the wind slowly shakes things which, swaying, cast shadows. Perhaps it's merely hanging laundry from a higher floor, but the shadows in themselves don't know the clothes, and they impalpably flutter in hushed harmony with all things. [...] And without seeing, without thinking, my eyes now closed on my non-existent slumber, I wonder what words can truly describe moonlight. The ancients would say that it is silvery or white. But this supposed whiteness actually consists of many colors. Were I to get out of bed and look past the cold panes, I know I'd see that in the lofty air the moonlight is of a grayish white, blued by a subdued yellow: that over the various, unequally dark rooftops in bathes the submissive buildings with a black white and floods the red brown of the highest clay tiles with a colorless color. At the end of the street - a placid abyss where the naked stones are unevenly rounded - there's no color besides a blue which perhaps comes from the grey of the stones. The horizon is almost a dark blue, different from the black blue in the deepest sky. On the window where it reflects, the moonlight is a black yellow.'
[ from the book of disquietude by Fernando Pessoa ]
One of my professors at university once told us a little annecdote about how he had managed to come up with an incredible discovery, only to find out that he had merely repeated a well-known idea from some time ago. “I was unsure”, he told us, “about whether I should be proud of myself about being on a similar intellectual level with one of the greats, or disappointed about being thirty years too late.” A similar thought occured to me while listening to “landscapes elsewhere”, Asher’s latest full-lenght and a follow-up to his leerraum-release “Directions”, which left me and many others speechless with its intuitive stream of calmly fluctuating and mysteriously moving events.
Simply put, while Asher is carefully treading new and more harmonic ground with this album when compared to his previous work, it will always remain a nostalgic experience for me. After hearing the first few bars, I am back to the early 90s, to Berlin and the scene which gravitated around artists such as Jan Jelinek and Stefan Betke like moons around massless planets inside an infinitely minimal galaxy. Jelinek would be the first whom I’d notice, his “Loopfinding Jazzrecords” my first encounter with these radically different and yet so familiar pieces, which hid beneath endless layers of vinyl crakling. Betke would then take this concept to extremes on a three-part album series, which started inside the womb of a black hole and ended in the most bizarre Levi’s clip ever. Asher certainly comes from a different direction (excuse the pun) and as he has decidely stated, his music ows as much to painting, literature and the movies as Betke’s did to dub. And yet the results he comes up with on “landscapes elsewhere” are strikingly similar at a first listen. On four pieces, the clicks and cuts from an old record are back, spinning away into the night on a neveeending loop, as is that warm hissing, which lends a feeling of vastness, of borderlessness and a profound loneliness to the music. Occasionally, distant dabbles of water will be heard, melting seemlessly with the happily scraping crackles, only to flow off into the grooves again. Underneath these rivers of microscopic black sound splinters, Asher plants melodic fragments into a dark but fertile ground, playing on an instrument somewhere between a marimba and a Fender Rhodes. Each work centers around a single repeated motive of a few seconds, which repeats itself with shifting accents and decreasing in speed. At first, it seems as though the loops’ starting point is merely wandering from the beginning to the end, slowly tilting the balance. But as time goes on, one discovers that there are different mechanisms at work here – be they random or more complex. It is this duality between the consoling certainty of understanding these foreign soundscapes and the unsettling insecurity about what is going on which lends these seemingly simple and repetetive tracks an air of grandness.
Even though there is a clear connection between them when it comes to sound, Asher is not interested in the Pop sensibilities of acts like Pole. The mere fact that the opening composition and the final one carry on for twenty minutes apiece reveal that he is looking for a full immersion into single thought and mood, not the hypnosis attained through the brain or body following a beat. Not that it matters, really. Whether or not this music has appeared in some form or the other before, “landscapes elsewhere” is a mesmerising and addictive effort.
[ Tobias Fischer ]
When is too little not enough? With “Landscapes Elsewhere”, Asher moves several steps away from his fine prior releases toward much more tonal territory. The question is whether he supplants this mollification factor with enough salt to retain the attention of listeners not so interested in elaborations on the Eno-esque. Well, yes and no.
There are four pieces, two of about 20 minutes bracketing another pair each a third that long. Though they are distinct, the casual listener could be forgiven if he thought that he was hearing four extracts from a single work. As near as I can determine, each consists of four elements (though there certainly may be more): the soft, staticky pops of vinyl at 33 1/3 rpm, rather muted field recordings involving water, avian and insectile sounds, a steady, generally high-pitched electronic drone and, most prominently, gentle tones that seem to have originated from an electric keyboard. “Gentle” is the key word here. The first three elements exist in a fairly steady state and, perhaps unfortunately, tend to be heard as background for the keyboard. You can mentally shift the layering if you exert some effort (at least, for me, it takes some effort) but the melodic quality of the tones makes it almost automatically read as foreground. Those notes exist in brief patterns that repeat with some exactitude although the spacing between notes is, I think, subtly varied, though that may be a perception influenced by shifts in the other elements. Aside from that possible cranial exercise, you pretty much grasp the “whole” within a few minutes and one’s enjoyment derives from how much beauty one can extract from the appreciation of the balance and interaction of the various sounds, the sort of thing that brings to mind more differentiated antecedents like “Music for Airports”.
But there’s something else, a quality of all good ambient music. After a while—for myself about when the last track begins—you can manage to drop all these activities and just bathe in the sounds, the atmosphere Asher may have been striving to attain all along suddenly becoming apparent. Maybe it’s just because the melodic line in this track contains a tantalizing hesitation before resolving and that it, somehow, meshes with the rest of the sounds in a more natural, complicated manner. Hard to say. I’m curious to see if Asher continues in this direction. As it stands, listeners who have enjoyed his previous work should probably hear this one as well, even at the risk of getting a little less out of it. Newcomers, especially those coming in from “harder” eai, might be better served with prior recordings.
[ Brian Olewnick ]
The work of Asher, who hails from Sommerville, Massachusetts, has been reviewed before in Vital Weekly. He mainly deals with mp3 releases, perhaps out of economic reasons,, but occasionally it's also a CDR, like his third release on Con-V. While playing this release, I was thinking about Asher and how he works. Imagine Asher as a painter, who puts paint on his canvas, takes up a knife and starts erasing the paint, not entirely but just the top layer. That is perhaps what Asher does with sound. He takes a recording and peels off the top layer, the layer that makes up much of the sound, and shows us the sound below, the hiss, the static, the crackle. Perhaps Asher just uses cleverly some old 78 rpm record, which he loops around adds a some crackle files, but I have a slightly more romantic notion of this. I see him recording his music (wether or not lifted from an old 78 rpm) on a reel-to-reel machine, and then moves the playback heads a bit so that the play-back is only half what it should be. The broken cable to record it on his computer (!) is just an other tool. In the four pieces he delicate repeats the process with slight variations. As such there isn't much difference with his previous works, but this one sounds even more refined.
[ Frans de Waard ]
"Landscapes Elsewhere" is Asher Thal-Nir’s third release on netlabel Conv coming after “Graceful Degradation” (cd-r) and “Invariably The Blue” (mp3). It’s also the follow-up to “Directions” (cd-r) released by Leerraum. A noticeable difference in this newest album when compared to the aforementioned is the inclusion of more harmonious and organic elements. But Asher’s music is more than just about sounds - it’s also about images, perception, and emotion.
Having listened to landscapes elsewhere two things come to mind. The first is the soft chroma of a favorite color - grayish-blue - a diffused and pleasant hue, that I find very soothing. The second is the most enjoyable season to me - Indian Summer (actually an atypically stretch of temperate and sunny weather occurring in late Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere) - with its comforting warmth and subdued, hazy sunlight. Asher has said that he is reluctant to talk about his music and a little reflection on my part reveals why. The music that he composes is more than just about him and the sounds and the minutiae of their creation. More importantly, it’s about the listener and about how the sounds are interpreted and what affect they have on the listener.
On the surface level I can easily describe the music because all listeners will hear similar sounds although we might use different words to describe them e.g. soft, harmonious gently resonating above a layer of the light static pop-and-crackle of an old vinyl record coupled with field recordings of watery noises, birds, and other organic sounds and even traces of a subtle, but noticeable, high frequency droning whine. The album consists of four compositions: “where the blue appears not quite blue” (1) and “last rays of a painted sun” (4) both exceed 20 minutes in duration while “there’s no color besides a blue” and “the traveller pierced by arrows“ (2 and 3) are considerably shorter each being near 6 minutes in length. As is with much of Asher’s work, there is an unmistakable homogeneity between the compositions which gives the album a very coordinated ambiance, but concentrated listening reveals enough divergence between the compositions so that each stands on its own.
landscapes elsewhere has the quality of being variable relative to the listener‘s present state of mind. As I write this review, the weather is unusually pleasant here in the Midwestern United States for this time of year and life is good right now. The sounds as I perceive them from listening to these compositions in this existing moment are relaxing and emotionally reassuring. Were the weather more unfriendly or life more difficult, my experience of the music might be considerably different. How we perceive the music is partly colored by the present moment.
If you’ve enjoyed Asher’s other works, then landscapes elsewhere will not disappoint you. If you’ve found his previous work to be too minimal and abstract for your tastes, then you will be pleasantly surprised with the inclusion of more harmonious sounds and field recordings which make for an overall more organic release.
[ Larry Johnson ]
CON-V EDITION | 2015