Chris Herbert: Mezzotint

Listeners with graphics industry connections will know already that a mezzotint is a halftone screen that gives a photographic image a textured and filtered appearance and, as such, said listeners will also know that the title of Birmingham-based Chris Herbert's debut is therefore apropos. The ‘dedicated non-musician' uses low-tech gear and methods—improvised collages assembled on a decrepit desktop PC from found sounds and field elements—to realize his allusive settings, and opts for tangential rather than overt melodies and rhythms so as to keep the focus on the towering ‘vertical' dimension of the material.

Establishing the album's hypnotic character immediately, “Stab City” presents a lumbering, gaseous mass of woozily undulating character whose high-pitched tones swim in a swamp of crackle and blurry industrial noise. Beneath a sweltering pond of insectoid life-forms, gamelan bell tones generate an entrancingly placid ambiance in “Cassino” while ripples of static and steely clatter pulsate throughout “Suashi.” Needless to say, Mezzotint is an arresting exercise in textured sound sculpting, material best experienced as headphones listening or in a darkened room with the volume on full. Only under such conditions will its oft-subliminal yet spectacularly rich detail be fully apprehended. (Don't be thrown, incidentally, by the seeming discrepancy between the listed tracks and the disc's twelve, as Herbert intersperses five untitled interludes in amongst the titled pieces.)

October 2006