The Laaps imprint continues with its final entry of spring, released on the cusp of summer. As some recall, each album begins where the last leaves off, which means Federico Durand‘s “Salvia” proceeds from the mouth of Stijn Huwels and Tomoyoshi Date’s “A Distant Fire, A Distant Cloud.” Durand’s work lends itself well to such musical segues: sedate, graceful, loop-based, music-box led.
But there’s more to the story than this. Herbario is very much a pandemic album, guided by the quietude of gardens. The title refers to the collecting of dried plants and flowers in scrapbooks, with the collector’s notes and observations. During the pandemic, we all became observers of tiny things, whether we wanted to or not: incremental changes in plants and gardens, temperatures and migrations. Each track is named after one of Durand’s favorite flowers or trees. But what else did he do during the pandemic, apart from wandering the fields and mountains near his home? The artist also collected snippets of sound, pressed them, preserved them, and pasted them in this sonic scrapbook.
Herbario‘s humility is its greatest asset. There are no hit singles here, only a uniform calm. The bells and tones are akin to tiny seeds, working their way toward the surface through the last two springs: a spring of sorrow, followed by a spring of hope. The contrast between the years is vast, but the growth of plants remains the same: constancy in a time of turmoil. While we project our own imaginings on the flora around us, there’s much to be admired in the obstinacy of sprouting seeds, like musical tendrils working their way to the surface of the mind. In like manner, we may intuit quiet, positive thoughts and intentions shuffling through the dirt and detritus of society, not begging for attention, but serving as subtle reminders that the world’s beauty never left us.
Seeds and small flowers tend to be lost in the loudness of summer, when everything is warm and green. But once upon a time, in spring 2020, we needed such things more than ever. As we enter a summer that promises to be the loudest in existence ~ so many parties, celebrations, and reunions ~ Durand reminds us not to ignore the world beneath our feet, where miracles continue to unfold, whether we notice them or not. (Richard Allen)