Hear First: Mister Lies’s Mister Lies

The premiere of the first Mister Lies album to be released in five years, plus an essay from Nick Zanca himself.

Hear First is Talkhouse’s series of album premieres. Along with streams of upcoming albums—today’s is Mister Lies’s Mister Lies — we publish statements from artists and their peers about the mindsets and impressions that go into, or come out of reflection on, a record. Here, Nick Zanca himself reflects on his first album after a five year personal hiatus, which you can listen to right here.
— Annie Fell, Talkhouse Associate Editor

I sit cross-legged and sunburnt in the back of a boat on a lake away from the city and point a portable recorder at its gurgling motor. It’s the Fourth of July, a friends-and-family gathering not unlike the ones I grew up around — voices carry from across the water, drunk on gossip and sunlight. I have distanced myself from the group at the bow of the boat as we are towed towards an annual fireworks display, ignited from a dock on the opposite cove. I close my eyes and listen to the waters roar, drowning out what feels familiar, drifting in and out of participation. I am capturing the present despite a struggle to remain rooted in it.

My new record was built around recorded documents like these, environments where language fails and sound does all the talking. Both tracking and mixing were realized alone in my apartment in a little under a year. I started with a pile of tapes and Ableton sketches pulled from old hard drives, eventually stitching them together alongside field recordings, improvised passages and lyrics pulled from journal entries. Often throughout the production process, I wasn’t quite sure where the work was leading — rhythms and atmospheres seemed to be moving in multiple directions and speeds at once. When I got the masters back and pressed play for the first time, any suspicion was left behind and it was suddenly crystal clear: I had made this music from memory.

How you choose to hear this music is entirely up to you. For optimized listening, I suggest playing the record start to finish at least the first time around, engaging with it linearly as one would approach meditation or watching a film. These ten tracks could be seen as distinct rooms with their own embedded environments — you can drop in or out of each place at your leisure, but doubtless you will get the most out of touring the whole house, sucked into each setting as if through time travel. 

In the midst of our day-to-day world-weariness, music that leans toward the textural has so often assumed no other role beyond soothing the listener. Duration is disregarded, structure is overlooked, attention is cast away and encouraged to drift. These thirty minutes could provide a similar sort of escape despite how quickly the time passes, but I also believe the organization of sounds gathered here is something more deliberate; the noise moves beyond mere calm. The intent was to supply a space for reflection above respite. Rather than avoiding chaos and mediating the dissonances of the world outside, both are invited in; the comfort zones between performance and perception are disoriented and reinforced at the same time. 

After nearly five years spent away, moving towards a collaborative headspace and letting life happen, returning to the solo project I started in my dorm room in college has been a strange if not self-fulfilling journey. It is as if I am interacting with a younger version of myself — an impatient nineteen-year-old with deep insecurities and performance anxiety but with the same urge to create honest sounds with a sense of place. With this record I am leaning in, borrowing his ideas and magnifying them from a slightly older, debatably wiser perspective. In its final form, I have discovered the kind of confidence I never knew I had. The sounds I once dismissed as distractions have become the soloists; the stories I once reduced to ephemera have reemerged at the center. After searching for a proper place to land, I have built this music a home of its own. I’m proud to finally open the doors.

— Nick Zanca

(Photo Credit: left, Brian Vu; right, Hunter Adams)

New York-based producer, composer and sound artist Nick Zanca has been releasing music under the name Mister Lies since 2012. The project began in a Chicago dorm room with the release of a four-track EP, Hidden Neighbors — over the years, his sounds have inhabited a specific intersection between intimacy and atmosphere through a maximalist mosaic of field recordings, sample-based textures, glitchy soundscapes, and nocturnal pop songs.

After a five-year personal hiatus, Zanca returns to his project’s roots with a home-recorded, self-titled and self-released third LP. Realized over the course of a year and explicitly designed as a start-to-finish listen, Mister Lies is a study of capturing the present and a celebration of the art of recording itself. Field recordings and found sounds are intertwined with electroacoustic improvisations and lyrics lifted from journal entries to form a half-hour genre-agnostic montage of memory. Bells sound, birds gossip, trains pass and boats rev their engines — this is kinetic, fluid music that promotes deep listening and headphone time travel.

(Photo Credit: Brian Vu)