Chris Herbert
Wintex–Cimex 83






Disclaimer: I am a huge fan of Birmingham-based composer Chris Herbert and very enthralled in view of his latest – and first ever! – EP Wintex-Cimex 83, ominously named after the NATO's habitual war game "Winter Exercise/Civil-Military Exercise." I've waited for this EP a long time. Consisting of four tracks, functioning as a teaser for his sophomore album Constants, recorded between 2007 and 2013 and released on Lawrence English’s ROOM40 label, the EP is also most conveniently released just in time to be included in AmbientExotica’s Winter Ambient Review Cycle 2013. Wintex-Cimex 83, believe it or not, is Herbert’s first dedicated release since 2006’s Mezzotint. The artist appeared on a few compilations from time to time and delivered the downright beautiful and glacial behemoth Naimina-Longueur (2011), but otherwise remained under the radar, incessantly refining and working on that important agenda: the road to his second album. Obviously, this EP is not it, but comprises of fresh leftovers (if you allow me this oxymoron), reworks of formerly exclusive live tracks and remixes of other vignettes which the artist collected throughout the long working phase. During the long wait, Chris Herbert's Twitter followers were in the very lucky position to absorb many of his potentially selected, eventually discarded and soon-to-be-included strata, stems and concoctions in photographed (burning charcoal!) and aural gestalts, so believe me, he is definitely no slacker! And yet it seems almost beyond belief that seven years passed by. Seven whole years… and counting. This in-depth review of Wintex-Cimex 83 concentrates on the wintry subtheme and glazed glaciers it evokes via its title and front artwork, but also disentangles the warmer synth fibers, distills the alkaline Glitch bubbles which are all over the EP and pays tribute to the artistic vision of, as the press blurb explicates, “radar, dying stars, aeronautics, ailing short waves flickering in the troposphere, [and] the ghost of JG Ballard”.


Yes, it’s just an EP, but the fact that the opener Soft Quasars launches in medias res, all of a sudden and with its hazy base frame already intact, augments the perception that Chris Herbert does not need a pompous reintroduction, let alone the bog-standard procedure of a slow fade-in. Eminently frosty and fragile, the point of origin is a fir-green drone flume with a dark, quasi-ecclesiastic vibraphone-esque gyration. Admixed clicks and crackles and magnified tape hiss rivulets then lead to the next state within Soft Quasars, a strikingly translucent synth-fueled polar diorama of spheroidal aurora chimes and a striking euphony. This all too short segue leads to a rather dun-colored piece of contemplation whose silkened two-note melody may be opaque, but spawns silkened warmth and thermal fluxion in adjacency to the crystalline siren aorta that is wafting around it. Time within that polyhedric sapphire moves on, fathoms out mellowed guitar protrusions, a Glitch-inspired prong galore complete with distorted staticd that sound like crushed snow. The endpoint of Soft Quasars might be perceived as a portentous allusion – gone are the ethereal overtones awash with light – but it poignantly cross-fades into the next distinct track, cheekily showing that borders and rims are refreshingly arbitrary in the world of Wintex-Comex83.


This next track is called Nuvagapak, bringing back the seraphic iridescence that was momentarily amiss: a glistening glow towers above a genteel mélange of AM radio frequencies, static coils and pink noise cascades. It is here where words are horribly de trop, for the simultaneity and unison of the pristinely purified and prolonged chimescape with the aerose-argentine fluxion of coruscating blebs, droning airplane engines and aeriform arcana is downright enchanting. Everything plinks and clings, but is at the same time fittingly diffuse, blurred and limewashed. Nuvagapak really is one song, not a conglomerate of various movements, and is hence able to emanate an auroral chasteness. Rapture and solemnity securely enshrined within its epithelium, Nuvagapak gently fades out and makes room for Vactrol, a tramontane long-form monolith of over nine minutes, implicitly showcasing why Chris Herbert’s EP and sophomore album Constants were postponed for so long. Whereas Nuvagapak sported fractured light, glistening gleams and blue icicles, Vactrol is more of a mystical plateau, a New Age-oid antrum or innermost sanctuary. It is not exactly New Age though: the synth layers are too thin and fearful, the close proximity of nonentity always influencing the luminosity of the otherwise vitreous synth movements. Spiraling stardust glitters flutter around the camouflaged bells and echo-reflecting mainstays. For my taste, these glittering entities are a tad too vibrant or loud, swallowing much of the graceful shapes and degrading their circumambience, but this is nit-picking, for these spirals are undoubtedly the strategic pillars of Vactrol, introduced in the second minute and then maintained throughout the runtime. I’m no synesthete, but turquoise-greenish colors are all over this aural emerald. Uniting soothing quiescence and ebullient flecks, Vactrol’s sphere is elating, no matter how glaring its particles are.


The final track Nunki is no more special than the remaining tracks, but to me, it sure is. Chris Herbert was kind enough to show its interim process to his fans. Back then, he was not sure whether it would appear on the forthcoming second album. Turns out that it did not, but its clear cut Drone physiognomy is enormously charming, glorifying the coldest of all seasons by transfiguring it into a peaceful, ever-graceful capsule of shelter and benignancy. An elasticized organ-like stream floats next, through and beyond a wondrously bolstered, thickly wadded embroidery of euphonious warmth. Heck, there is even ecstasis emitted, everything is aglow, resting in itself. The softened cymbal-like bursts add a hint of hibernal hue and plasticity to the wraithlike, warmly glowing elysium. Nunki is an embracing artifact, clearly aware of the listening subject – if that makes any sense at all – due to its tailored and pinpointed openness and embracing amicability. It is lachrymose at worst and enormously serendipitous in its best moments, although the term moments is problematic, as Nunki flows, oozes and seeps through the speakers or headphones, ending Wintex-Cimex 83 in a magnanimously celestial way. Yes, it is particularly close to my heart as I have soaked up many of its textures and patterns over several months, but my glowing idolization shall not make it the standout track. It triggers all the right synapses, but the remaining triad is as wintry, transformative and stunning.


The disclaimer in the opening paragraph said it all. It is repeated here in slightly altered form: I am a huge fan of Chris Herbert’s music and looked forward to a cohesive work ever since I have encountered 2006’s Mezzotint. The day has arrived in November 2013, Wintex-Cimex 83 is the artifact of devotion, and it is as if the artist never vanished. While there are Ambient musicians who release tracks, tapes or EP’s on a regular, almost monthly basis, the Birmingham-based artist took all the time in the world. Yes, the EP features leftovers that did not make it to the album, fine, but as the old saying goes, “B-sides are often better than the album material.” It so happens that Wintex-Cimex 83 is a superbly retrogressive Ambient work uniting vestiges of New Age, vesicles of Drone and vestibules to Glitch. Embracing warmth and delicate coldness are united here, and believe me, I would have featured the EP in my Winter Ambient Review Cycle even if the artificial term Wintex would not evoke an echopraxia of, well, winter. From the multiplexing of four to five polyfaceted vignettes in Soft Quasars, over the silver scintillating purity of Nuvagapak, to Vactrol’s paradoxically recumbent vivacity, up until the superimposition of calorific heat and cautious blisters is reached in Nunki, the EP is a wondrous marvel, a marvelous wonder. Melodies are king, gone are the macrocosmic click centers and low frequency protuberances of Mezzotint’s Chlorophyll and Suashi, Chris Herbert now favors the interplay of heterodyned frequencies, their interdependence with the harmonious melodies, and last but not least, the intersection of glitchy molecules. If this material was ostracized from the artist’s sophomore album, and since it is (temporarily) available for free, I must be dreaming.



Further listening and reading:



Ambient Review 291: Chris Herbert – Wintex-Cimex 83 (2013). Originally published on Dec. 4, 2013 at