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How Atmospheric Music Lingers Until It Breaks

A new two-track set by Chris Herbert

(Note: There will be two downloadable copies of this album up for grabs in the next edition of the This Week in Sound email newsletter. Subscribe at tinyletter.com/disquiet.)

There’s a moment deep into “Memorex Delta,” the second of the two halves of Chris Herbert’s engrossing Katushki album, when the blissful effluence that has come to define the release is interrupted. Static rises, and along with it a ringing tone that amasses intensity and volume. The static goes from white noise to rupture, from a background irritant to the sonic impression of the music breaking, failing, falling apart, and then the sound drops out — the bottom falls out. If a dying computer made music, if it uttered a death rattle, it might sound like this, the blue screen of death metal. The shift is to a darker quiet, as if the floor has disappeared and we’re left peering into an intense flux, a rancorous abyss.

On its own this abrasive denouement would be noise music, but it’s heard in a broader, lengthier context. Most of “Memorex Delta” and all of the first track, “Supposed Corona,” sets the tone with a far more nuanced, elegant, plaintive expression. Both tracks proceed as a series of lowercase-sound utterances: lightly dubby segments that repeat and overlap until you realize in retrospect that their time has passed, that something else has replaced them. The music insinuates itself in your head, so you hear it after it’s no longer playing. That’s the thing about atmospheric music. Once it becomes part of the atmosphere, it can linger.

Writes Herbert of the album:

Katushki comprises two extended pieces of structured collage. As well as characteristic systems murk, the first documents recent detours in the form of collaborative pieces alongside spontaneous explorations of fractured texture and recent radio work. The second was conceived for cassette and uses the medium as a core sound process. Themes of phasing and stippled atmospherics pervade. Working without the idea of formal tracks and away from expectations was liberating. The extended length of the pieces allowed me to focus on more atypical and personal aspects of my oeuvre.

Additional notes at the release’s Bandcamp page mention some key factors. “Supposed Corona” contains material that was first heard back in September 2015 on Australia’s FBi Radio, and that the work originally included processing by Nicholas Bullen and Elias Merino.

Album originally posted at lowpoint.bandcamp.com. More from Herbert, who is based in Birmingham, England, at chrisherbert.net, soundcloud.com/chrisherbert, and twitter.com/cjherbert.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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