Federico Durand – Herbario (Laaps, 2021)

In the last few of years I’ve become increasingly obsessed with the colour green. I suspect this originated watching Tarkovsky films, whose use of colour in landscapes scenes is intoxicating to me, and then further entrenched following a return to the familial homeland of Ireland. Emerald Isle, I had forgotten, is a name rightly earned.

The attraction to green is quite clear: green is the colour of life on Earth, the colour of the tidal chlorophylls that come and go with the Sun, whose presence indicates the maximal point of the year, and whose absence speaks to the nadir. This is elevated also by the fact that our eyes are most attuned to green wavelengths of light, whose peak sensitivity lies right in the middle of the green spectrum.

There is something comforting in the colour that speaks to the deepest levels of our genetic memory; we feel low when we can’t see it, and even just spending short periods outdoors with trees and plants and grasses can drastically elevate our moods.

In Herbario we sense this distillation of life’s essence as Durand takes us on a calm, soothing journey through the landscape local to him, each track taking the time to investigate and manifest some of Durand’s favourite plants and flowers. It radiates at the peak of the spectral sensitivity curve, energy exuding effortlessly, inherently, through its softness; delicacy maximally detected even despite its minimalism.

It’s hard to talk of the pieces themselves, each a distinct and discrete moment of floral excitation brought to bear in quintessential Durand style as soft tape loops and gentle ambiences. Cassette fuzz hums characteristically in the backfield in the likes of “Nogal” (Walnut) and “Romero” (Rosemary), reminiscent almost of a soft Summer’s breeze that keeps the glimmering synth tones and toyboxes in suspension. Bright bold leaves scintillate in its path, framed against sky.

Cooler moments fall to “Menta” (Mint) and “Cedrón” (Lemon Beebrush), the former cruising through glassy twilight tones that evoke the sparkling sharpness of mint’s perfume that seems to cut right through the air. The latter spins in less crystallised turns, light touches whose loops keep close and invite us in to investigate its small but beautiful flowers more closely.

Moments hardly poke their head above the parapet anywhere, and there exists a certain equality amongst the pieces where none is favoured by the artist more than any other. A sense of peace emanates in this collective flattening, this greenery that refuses to compete for our attention: all unique and noteworthy and bold in their own right, but all the same salve in a year of lockdowns and fear.

It seems even in the sonic world I can’t escape the colour.