Genre bending and boundary pushing in the Internet-era of music has never been in higher demand. Eclecticism and evolution in artists’ discographies seems be becoming a standard, as audiences become less enthralled with consistency and homogeneity within their favorite artists’ bodies of work. It is this principal that has allowed artists like Arcade Fire or Beyonce to soar and caused others such as The Black Lips and Wiz Khalifa to flounder. It seems when musicians avoid niches, they are able to create and experiment more freely. While this will sometimes lead to mixed results sonically, the eagerness and gall to push past expectations created by genre yields intrigue and admiration.
Such is the case for experimental and ambient composer Asher White, who released Asher White Misses the Good Old Days in late May. This is White’s first release under her own name, having going under the moniker Trisha Hewe Sailee (sometimes stylized THS) prior to the release of this LP. The namesake is one of the more minute changes compared to how dramatically White’s sound has changed in the past two years. The teenage producer already has a sprawling body of work, with 15 records released in the span of two years. MtGOD differs dramatically from White’s style of spacey hums, erratic guitar tracks and haunting field recorded compositions. What has been displayed instead is some of the most delicate and shining baroque pop in recent memory. A shift in technique and approach, which given the artist past, is a complete curveball.
White plays essentially every instrument on the record, save a few cello parts by Kip Macsai-Goren and a few field recordings courtesy of Lauren Collins. From dreary toy accordions to crisp banjo picks, White guides us through a winter and early spring of anxiety, restlessness and confusion. The music engages these difficult emotions by constantly hitting peaks and valleys, from the smallest clicks of the glockenspiel to triumphant horns reminiscent of Scott Spillane’s playing on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. One of White’s biggest strengths on MtGOD is her organ playing, which is what makes tracks like “Backseat” and “Darkgrass” not just some of the strongest tracks, but also the catchiest. Some of White’s ambient and field background rear their head, like on the end of “Song About How I Currently Feel Relative To How I Feel Now” when whispers, what sounds like a dirt bike engine and a gust of wind clipping a mic fuse together into a document of specificity and time. White’s ear for when to use the right instruments at the right time allows the listener to go from melancholy to blissful, drowsy to overjoyed.
The most defining trait of MtGOD is the naked and true vocals that take control of the record. White’s voice never reaches very high pitches, but typically stays at melodic mumble that tells the stories of her isolation during the shadowy months of winter in Chicago. “It always happens when I’m walking through the dark/ it’s just a feeling that I‘ll never get things” White harps on “Darkgrass.” White’s singing sticks within the tradition of spooky yet comforting vocals found in modern baroque pop. Hints of early Perfume Genius and Régine Chassagne leak through White’s flowery rasp. “I have in the past shied away from singing directly or being emotionally transparent in music, probably often to a fault (does 4 hours of wordless reverb really cut deep?) so this project has been a huge huge step for me,” White stated on social media following the release of the record. It seemed surprising that the multi-instrumentalist had strayed away from vocals, given the range in “Underground”, which builds up gorgeous whispers to a crescendoed pitch and then back to an adolescent moan. These unique singing contrasts perfectly match the varied composition and that is what allows this album to be so emotionally potent and transparent.
Written by Caleb Brennan