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Winds Measure Recordings 009 . 2008

Very hot on the wheels of their recent collaboration here is another one by Asher Thal-nir and Miguel A. Tolosa, also known as Asher and Ubeboet. It doesn't say on the cover, but no doubt this is the work of field recordings being processed. Two pieces of almost equal length of some utter dark and densely layered material. Slowly moving forward, like a giant beast leaping forward. It sounds like the processed sound of wind humming, recalling ghostly voices. If dark ambient didn't exist already as a musical genre it could be invented by this release. Not really the sort of spectacle that the music could be, but in its genre quite nicely put together.

(frans de waard, vital weekly)

The memories harbored herein play a sort of aural hide-and-seek. Austere sound textures and noise detritus are glimpsed through crevices that close like eyelids and occasionally open onto vast, largely motionless sonic shores.

Track titles such as “alter” (the other) and nullus (neither) stand as concrete reasons supporting the intuition that these works serve as meditations on the foreign and exceptional quality secreted by experience. A world that speaks in order to say nothing is indeed a mysterious phenomenon, and it seems precisely this sort of process that has ensnared the duo’s attention. They gather field recordings like pebbles on the beach and pour them out over these two lengthy works. The voices of everyday incidents and events thus play tirelessly, but retreat as they invite one closer, and guard their secret while bearing all.

“Alter” is a dense accumulation of static rather than a clean drone. Molecules of sound are investigated in their very fiber. A versatile touch and considerable endurance is demonstrated in the turning over and assessment of each sussurating speck. One’s grasp of the piece grows no firmer as this process advances, however. In fact, the contrary proves the case, as the piece becomes only more abstract, distant, and intangible. Before long, its shadow has usurped its frame, a chilly, uninviting mixture of suffocated electronic buzzes and sombre cavernous chimes.

“Nullus” sustains this mood and momentum while also occasionally testing the surface tension with a crunching metallic jaggedness. While its concerns are admittedly few, Cell memory thereby manages to guard its secret very well. Its perplexing though skilled arrangement is enticing for its challenging nature – an ideal rock on which to cut one’s teeth.

(max schaefer, cyclic defrost)

“Cell memory”, out on Winds Measure Recordings, meanwhile, is an alltogether different proposition. On this well-measured effort, a mini-album clocking in at 36 minutes and comprising of two tracks of almost exactly the same length, Asher teams up with long-time ally and kindred spirit Miguel A Tolosa, delivering a work of quiet forms, slow changes and hypnotic repetitions. Drones, both of the subtle, harmonic kind and in the form of ominously howling sheets of white noise are at the backbone of the music. Underneath their cover, hauntingly organic sighs and irregular rhythmic patterns are coallescing into intense lower case mantras.

Like a whispered form of Dark Ambient, the pieces develop through thematic variations and gradual evolution of a sustained mood – with both tracks ending up somewhere completely different compared to where they started. This may well be the first time either Asher or Tolosa have diverted into the idea of a “zone”, but this term certainly describes their encounter quite aptly: It is not so much intricate details that matter here, but the general feeling conveyed by these subtle soundscapes, as well as a sense of minutely planned movement inside a clearly delineated space. Somehow, this comes across as music for an imaginary vernissage – with the paintings provided by the listener’s imagination.

(tobias fischer, tokafi)

Asher and Ubeboet regale us with Cell Memory, which they arrived at by swapping
sound files between their respective homes in Somerville USA and Madrid in Spain.
The very title is pretty evocative; perhaps drawing attention to something as
microscopic as a human or animal cell, and then suggesting that this tiny organism is
somehow equipped with its own memory system. If this biological fantasy were
plausible, presumably the hauntingly chilling sounds we hear would be evidence of
this thoughtful and memorious activity. In two parts, labelled ‘alter (the other)’
and ‘nullus (neither)’, hearing this record is just like experiencing slow snowdrifts
and wind moving in slow motion across an empty desert plain. It does have a
certain entrancing beauty, even if I find the solemn tone rather wearisome. We’re
being invited to meet an ancient guru who will impart great wisdom from his
sun-cracked lips, but he refuses to smile at us when we arrive.

(ed pinset, the sound projector)

Certain collaborations are born from the core of inevitability: both Asher Thal-Nir and Miguel Tolosa belong to the rank of enormously insightful sound artists from which we always expect some degree of enchantment, thus wholly justifying a joint release. Cell Memory does not delude, although it is not exactly equivalent to what I was figuring out in anticipation before spinning the CD.

The first track starts with a wraithlike bewailing, repetitive laments wafted by strong currents, a desert sandstorm heard from within a tent. The tone is one of resignation to the acceptance of upcoming chances, regardless of the entailed consequences. The piece then evolves towards sonorities recalling a faulty turbine amidst low murmurs comparable to massive underwater bubbles, in which what sounds like slowed down feedback appears to place an additional element of reiteration in an already haunting soundscape.

The second episode shows a slightly different trait while remaining relevant to the general concept. Again we're greeted by a threatening rumble that establishes its authority on the psyche straight away, then turns into a somewhat comforting incidence. This foundation is soon enriched by a overwhelmingly choral superimposition of stretched emissions, halfway through alien baritones and a potent insufflation blowing transversely in a large fissure. The whole wraps us in a blanket of diffidence, yet we’re also thrilled to be encircled and finally engulfed, as an impenetrable throb dictates the pace of the composition and the ghosts return, worrying appearances that, on the contrary, are back to hunt the demons of unresponsive ignorance.

Well-known recipe, truth be told. But when the chefs are at this level of expertise, one gladly returns to the same restaurant. Translation: four full stars.

(massimo ricci, brain dead eternity)

Asher teams once again with Ubeboet for “cell memory” (winds measure), two tracks that settle into the soft rumble side of things, evoking far off engines heard from deep inside the earth or some massive structure—or maybe from inside an organic cell, hearing the plasma surging by outside.

(brian olewnick, just outside)

Following as it did in the foot steps of A Map of the Ocean, that first listening of Cell Memory came as a bit of sonic shock to my system. The warm, bucolic ambiance of the former is no where to be found on the latter. Cold, dark ambient soundscapes is not unknown territory to me, but this new collaboration treads deep into this territory - deeper than I had expected.

Cell Memory consists of two tracks: alter (the other) and nullus (neither) are of almost equal durations and have a cumulative length of just over thirty-seven minutes. Both works would appear to be based on field recordings which have been processed/manipulated into a potage of thick, churning, primordial drones. You’ll notice similarities to Ubeboet’s drone style and Asher’s earliest online works. Within just a few seconds of listening to alter (the other) it became clear that there are ties to something ancient here - maybe a connection to those basic genetic memories, fears, and other instincts that are forever embedded in the DNA of our cells for the purpose of making our chances of survival a little more likely. It doesn’t take long for the scratchy, bristly introduction of alter (the other) to evolve into a densely layered, rumbling, shadowy drone. It could be compared to the best of what used to be referred to as isolationist ambient or, with those ghostly voices lamenting in the background, it could be the sonic accompaniment to a scene in a film whose setting is the abandoned, wind-swept ruins of ancient buildings. Likewise, nullus (neither) carries with it a similar musical aesthetic although it comes across as more opaque than its predecessor with an overall stormier atmosphere and contains some comparatively noisier and more abrasive moments including a few bursts of industrial-like machine noise.

Cell Memory is exciting collaboration between two prominent sound artists demonstrating their skill and versatility in manipulating sound so as to reflect whatever mood they deem as suitable for the immediate moment.

(larry a. johnson, earlabs)