‘Herbario’ is Spanish for a collection of dried plants, herbs, and flowers, which are then preserved in an album. A pencil is usually used to write the name of the herb, along with the details of its location, time of collection, general thoughts, and the environment from which it came. Federico Durand lives in an area surrounded by mountains and wild gardens, which he describes as a ‘source of inexhaustible beauty’, and each track on Herbario is a dedication to his love of nature. The love runs deep, as even the track titles are named after his favourite plants and trees. The music of Herbario is a gentle and pastoral retreat into nature, its soft melodies and recurring fragments plucked from a healthy source, always aiming towards bright sunshine.
‘I composed this album in the same way a botanist would have proceeded: collecting and preserving simple, broken and hypnotic melodies’
The music lets in plenty of light, and its spacious soundscapes are capable of being both bone-dry, kicking up clouds of dirt and dust, and being well-watered, thanks to a beautiful, slim selection of melodies. A scorching temperature permeates every track; it’s possible to imagine a heat-haze melting the road, wavering its decaying VHS lines, and Durand’s fragile lo-fi haze seems to echo it. Like the herbs, the flowers, and their stems, the music is a delicate, living thing. Durand is careful with every single tone, holding it in the palm of his hand and ensuring its safety while playing it back (and studying it, in a way), before setting it down with care and preserving it. Herbario is music of and designed for preservation.
Considering the global climate emergency and the horrific impact our species continues to have on the overall health of the planet, the music, perhaps on a subconscious level, presents a much-needed reminder; what we have been entrusted to look after is being brought to ruins, and our current guardianship of the planet is more like an abusive relationship than that of a kind carer.
Words are nothing without actions, though, and Durand is an active participant in the wellbeing of his natural surroundings. With love and attention, Durand places his tones beside one another, collecting them, storing them up, and giving each one the room to have their say. The pieces of music are distinct enough, but they also share familiar characteristics. Like pieces of bark from a family of trees or the universality of a seed, the music spreads from one singular point and shares a common theme. Attempts are made to patch up a cluster of bent and frayed melodies, to fix what is broken, all so bright and sun-inclined. Herbario is a lovely, light ambient record with deeper – and essential – meanings to unearth.