Nightports w/ Tom Herbert is the third in a series of albums from musician-producers Adam Martin and Mark Slater to be released on The Leaf Label, following 2018’s Nightports w/ Matthew Bourne and 2020’s Nightports w/ Betamax.
Tom Herbert made his name as the bass player in Mercury Music Prize-nominated bands Polar Bear and The Invisible, and has become an in-demand collaborator and session musician, including work with Adele, Lana Del Ray and most recently The Smile. Having honed his craft holding the low-end down in some of the most forward-thinking British groups of recent times, and also appearing on some the biggest tracks of the last twenty years, Nightports w/ Tom Herbert brings Herbert’s command of the double bass into the spotlight.
As with all of Nightports’ work, the album rewards close listening. They stay true to their manifesto in maintaining the essence of the original recordings. The processing never masks the organic source material, at times demonstrating the physicality of the instrument with detailed recordings of complete takes – the sound of the room, the creaking of strings and Herbert’s measured breathing. At other times they build more abstract, atmospheric layers from the parts.
“Through our collaboration, we wanted to show different sides to the instrument and reveal the real details of Tom’s playing,” Slater observes. “In our approach, we wanted to highlight all that the double bass is and can be, and to put it centre stage.”
Nightports and Tom Herbert ably demonstrate the versatility of the double bass. It’s an instrument that rarely gets the main focus in an ensemble, but one of the most striking aspects of the album is the emotional resonance in Herbert’s articulate melodic lines. “The improvisations that built the album were always highly emotive to us,” Martin explains. “It was special to watch Tom just pull these ideas out of thin air and play them into the silence of the studio. It then became our challenge to create sonic worlds for them to inhabit.”
In seeking to spotlight virtuosic musical talents, Nightports also continue to hone their own craft. As their reputation grows there’s a confidence to approach their work with a lighter touch, and it serves their subjects well. As Tom Herbert puts it “when I heard it back, it sounds like I imagine I sound in my dreams.” While Nightports’ rules may at first appear restrictive, they’re mining an increasingly rich seam.
Limited edition black vinyl LP (600 copies) – BAY 129V
Limited edition CD in 6-panel wallet. (600 copies) – BAY 129CD