There seems to be a gradually developing network among musicians who combine in-studio work with processed environmental recordings. This disc’s partnership between Jason Kahn and Asher is so logical that I mentally exclaimed “of course!” as soon as he heard that a joint effort was forthcoming; and indeed the results are succinct, truthful, yet radiant. The disc’s starting point was location recordings gathered by both artists in 2006 and 2007; Asher provided a selection of sounds from Boston’s Back Bay neighbourhood, including “various mechanical rooms, generators, ventilation systems and idling motors”, which he sent to Kahn for treatment. The latter captured other kinds of emissions, taping pre-dawn activity and environmental sounds on the shores of the Zürichsee and the sound of wind on the Swiss Alps.
On a casual listen, the music sounds like a mass of steam hiss and acute frequencies supported by a low throbbing pulse; you could call it “cold ambient”, though that would be to ignore the compositional sophistication. Indeed, the subtle juxtapositions of sources and the barely perceptible shifts from one section to another require attentive examination through headphones; the organic breath of life becomes immediately audible when you let your ears crawl into this microscopic sonic underworld. The effect is like being suddenly aware of your own heartbeat in the silence of a room – a phenomenon we take for granted but are nevertheless afraid to think about, as if paying too much attention could cause it to stop. On Vista Kahn and Asher have successfully managed to blend their two distinctive personalities; it’s apparent after just a few spins that the disc is a keeper, essential listening for followers of either artist.