Chris Herbert





Although released in 2006, Birmingham-based Ambient musician Chris Herbert didn't yet uncover the plans of a follow-up to his marvelous debut Mezzotint released on the Kranky label in 2006 (update below: he now did!). This is quite a shame, for this 12-track album features mostly winterly, hibernal Ambient tracks that work best when it is cozy indoors. While a drone album by nature, Mezzotint is much more frail as Herbert adds quite a few interesting peculiarities to his tracks such as tremendously deep basslines in tandem with sizzling noises or clarion bells.


Stab City starts the album with a hazy note and a gentle static noise that consists of pink noise and clanging bells. Crackles are added occasionally and a deep two-note string is laid open once the static noise decreases. The haziness of the track is remarkable, I believe, because I cannot classify the mood this track evokes. All I know is that it is working well, as everything is cautiously added to the mix without overloading the soundscape. Neither menacing nor sorrowful, Stab City is everything in-between with added snugness as an extra. Elisa is the following track, and a huge favorite of mine as well. Starting in a similarly hazy fashion, the track features delicate clicks and Casio keyboard-like sounds, three calm and misty notes that form the fog-permeating main theme, and a subliminally ecclesial background string. Everything feels calm and elevated, no element is out of place. A gorgeous Ambient piece and one piece I keep coming back over and over again, especially on gray Sunday afternoons, though this track also works on Wednesdays. Chlorophyll takes us, as its title suggests, on a microcosmic journey. This could be background music for a biology documentary. Constant clicking and crackling is heard, and a spheric, pulsating synth in the background generates a withdrawn atmosphere. This is yet another very strong tune I absolutely adore. The same can be said about Suashi as well. This track seems to be a bit more busy on the forefront, featuring similar crackling sounds as Chlorophyll did, but these are presented in a fluttering way and looped schematically. A very quiet two-note synth string can be heard. The most distinctive feature on here are the trembling basslines which add a depth of focus to the track. Without the basslines, the track would sound feeble, but the bass is used in exchange for loud strings and is hence added as a similarly room-filling element. Cassino is the longest track with short, warbling synth bursts and background synths that sound like a vibraphone. Whereas all aforementioned tracks elicited a certain wideness, Cassino is a claustrophobic track, causing a feeling of immediacy and closeness, in parts due to a slightly eery melody. In between most of the tracks there are unnamed vignettes scattered throughout Mezzotint, all of different qualities and moods, with track 3 being a calm addendum to Elisa, and track 9 feeling cramped as it is loaded with high frequency strings, to name just two examples.


Mezzotint is a terrific release in my book, as it caters exactly to my needs and demands regarding Ambient music. Whatever mood Chris Herbert tries to come up with, he is perfectly able to set things straight with every element in its right place. The moods range from calm and hazy to mystical and bustling while still maintaining a peaceful atmosphere. On tracks where the layers are stripped off the strings, other ingredients add the missing depth like the deeeeep basslines on Suashi or the pulsating nature of the synth on Chlorophyll. A classic for me, and I'm craving for a follow-up to Mezzotint because Chris Herbert's tracks on compilations like his Whips & Jingles on the weirdly titled Ambient Not Not Ambient compilation in 2008 are equally successful, but by far not enough – I want more. Recommended? You bet!




Chris Herbert  tweeted a reply to my question on December 12 in which he reveals his plans to come up with a new album in 2012. His Twitter name is @cjherbert. Great news indeed!




Ambient Review 012: Chris Herbert – Mezzotint (2006). Originally published on Dec. 18, 2011 at