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Chris Herbert - Mezzotint

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Artist: Chris Herbert

Album: Mezzotint

Label: Kranky

Review date: Sep. 27, 2006

The cool, vaporous drift of Chris Herbert's debut album will surely be familiar to anyone acquainted with the Kranky roster of sine wave swimmers. But noting that Herbert's spectral fuzz fits nicely into this droney canon is not a dismissal of sameness but praise for curatorial consistency. Mezzotint clearly belongs at the Chicago label whose very logo depicts its lower-case name emerging from the rampant squiggles of an oscilloscope. The Kranky project, if one can even be identified, appears in large-part founded on amplifications of the liminal. (Think of the disembodied invocations and somnambulist fretwork of Charalambides, the pulverized doom of Growing and Loscil's glyph-slathered techno.) The subtle abstraction of Mezzotint's minimalist sleeve may also speak to this effort: Millions of pixels play themselves and depict nothing other than their own miniscule geometry. They are a coat of invisible color on a cardboard canvas that on closer inspection reveals a buzzing carpet of still electricity. Likewise, Herbert's audio content consists primarily of, in his own words, "tuned air." He's right. Much of Mezzotint trickles out like tinny frequencies from a haunted radio, rabbit ears picking up crunchy static and purring treble from indiscernible coordinates.

Opener "Stab City" may be titled with shades of Wolf Eyes' ultraviolence but its seven minutes of murmuring, soft crackle obscure any gore. A distant ocean-liner and the faint chug of helicopter blades are slightly audible through the swirling particles; spectral presences that instead of serving as designations of locality just attest to the listener's malposition in a bottomless, slushing haze. This sense of dislocation is echoed in Mezzotint's structure: seven titled tracks with five untitled interludes sporadically interspersed. This ghost content, slight wisps pulled from Herbert's congealed currents, only adds to the disc's woozy topography: "Elisa" finds Oval's warped titanium slices liquefied into a whirlpool of flanged data, "Suashi" rattles and clangs with the random silvery rhythms of rifling-through cutlery, and the steady gurgle in "Cassino" even evokes an idling submarine engine lost in the diluted gravity and swishing eddies of Herbert's hissy flux.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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