Chris Herbert :: Constants (Room40)

An immersive sequenced whole of ever-shifting textures, constantly unfolding over ten tracks, many bleeding one into another. Somewhat stifling for some, perhaps, the density of texture rarely relenting, space not so much the place as a scarce resource.

Chris Herbert :: Constants

Birmingham sound artist Chris Herbert isn’t a full-time musician, more of a full-time artist—a full-on sound dealer, at any rate, while he’s on the job. Recalling another renowned non-musician, his pursuit of interests in intuitive composition and sound collage is unaffected, perhaps even liberated by this. Flaunting low-tech methods (e.g. minidiscs, worn-out desktop, rusty delay pedal), a creaky genesis is effected, by all accounts often via ram-raid day-job session insertions—extended rehearsals on the fly to semi-structured improvisations. Constants is his first full length for Room40—a first too since debut Mezzotint (Kranky, 2006), and it shows his blend of found sounds, ambient washes, drones and processing detritus to have held up well in the interim—partly a result of ‘certain life events’ (his words) restricting time for creative work, leading him to draw on a stash of recordings squirrelled away between 2007-13 as sound sources.

What emerges is a beguiling balance of glitchy’n’scratchy and lo-fi ambient lushness, blending deployment of noise with pitches imperfect—from DIY drones to thriftstore pads and static run-off. Herbert’s modus operandi is a continual process of subtraction and composting—progressive effacement leaving a melodic trace or rhythmic implicature. The result is a busy blur of verticality and opacity—unreadable incoming broadcasts and a brownian motion of  mysteries of the organism. Minimal in construction, but teeming with transportive atmospheres—gaseous, gruzzy, a welcome antidote to the clean granular cloud contours increasingly clamored over by the plug-and-play Ambienteers of Now. Stirring sub-bass propels “As Blue as Your Eyes Lover,” while domestic found sounds are rendered as if oceanic via intermediate technological sleight of hand (“Sea Holly,” “Former Shoreline”). While a couple like “Cinders” and “Crest,” with their wordless vocals and sweeping synths, share the warmth and melodicism of the similarly sourced winsome ‘pre-quel’ freebie, Wintex-Cimex 83, most of Constants sounds quite queasily Other—“Cité Radieuse,” for example, or “Zona,” the former hosting a roiling drone teeming with atmospherics redolent of a dystopian spaceship OST, the latter creeping with muted, dissonant dread.

All in all, though the album is littered with striking passages, ultimately Constants is an immersive sequenced whole of ever-shifting textures, constantly unfolding over ten tracks, many bleeding one into another. Somewhat stifling for some, perhaps, the density of texture rarely relenting, space not so much the place as a scarce resource. But for those seeking sonic drowning, this is as good a pool to pitch yourself into as any other.

Constants is out now on Room40.

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