Review: Federico Durand – Herbario (laaps, Jun 17)

a3746848398_10Federico Durand may be my favorite ambient musician active today. His music mines all of the life-affirming escapism of the genre without any of the all-too-frequent drawbacks: it’s beautiful, but not saccharine; tranquil, but not boring; delicate, but not naïve. 2018’s Pequeñas Melodías remains a clear standout, its fairy-tale world of sunlit dust and music box twinkles putting me to sleep on many a restless night; however, I can already see the recent Herbario surpassing it. “Through a year of uncertainty, from March 2020 to March 2021,” Durand “composed this album in the same way a botanist would have proceeded: collecting and preserving simple, broken and hypnotic melodies.” This humbly herbaceous approach, coupled with the longer, looser structures of many of the tracks, lets the music lilt with gossamer weightlessness like a cloud of seed-pods fluttering slowly to the ground. Throughout the various pieces, each named for one of Durand’s favorite plant species, a floral elegy neither joyful nor melancholy take shape, and at its core lies the potent yet ultimately neutral and apathetic sublimity of nature, a plane of existence infrangibly parallel to our own that can be admired and give inspiration but never be truly understood. Gorgeous closer “Laurel” is the purest illustration of that, somehow approximating the transcendence one can only achieve while sitting next to a rushing stream in the sun.

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