Herbert is where many people first encounter the music of Matthew Herbert. Beginning back in the mid-90s with a series of 12″ singles (Parts 1 to 4, compiled on the CD album, ‘100lbs’) Herbert burrowed deep underneath House music to create a refreshingly peculiar set of sounds within a recognisable structure. At this time, he was working with both his own sourced recordings and with pre-set equipment such as drum machines. Tracks like ‘Pen’ (‘100lbs’) gave an explicit indication of how things might develop but it wasn’t until 1998’s ‘Around The House’ album, and the arrival of singer Dani Siciliano, that the sound of Herbert began to unravel. From this album onwards Herbert continued to maintain a loose connection with the dance floor but moved more and more in a song-based direction. With the addition of pianist Phil Parnell to the live line-up prior to 2001’s ‘Bodily Functions’ album, acoustic instruments were increasingly incorporated, indeed the last set of live shows saw the line-up expanded yet again to incorporate a saxophonist and trumpet player.
“Whereas previous Herbert albums explored the idea of club music in the domestic environment, ‘Bodily Functions’ was more interested in the people within it, a living obituary and testament to what it is to be human in an age of inhumanity. I think of it as a document that covered important changes in my recent world. There are pieces about the obvious points of life and death and all the failed and beautiful moments in-between.
Whilst the symbolic failure of the relationships in the songs implies a personal catalogue of intimate errors, these relationships should also be seen as metaphors for the failed relationships we have with those in power and the distorted relationship we have as unwilling consumers. The failure of companies to recognise the worth of anything other than the right to make money, the hi-jacking of public space by wall-to-wall adverts and political decisions based almost solely on the risks or benefits to its corporate donors: the album contains stories that are so hard to project in a genre driven by hedonism.
I tried wherever possible to build the pieces around sounds taken from friends and family, and in the case of ‘Foreign Bodies’, strangers, in an attempt to achieve what had always been so esoteric in music before the existence of the sampler: the simultaneous capturing of both the corporeal and visceral (with a little help from Matmos’ medical exploratory microphone techniques). Music has usually been about representation but in the age of the sampler we can capture the actuality of that which indicates existence: noise.
The ability to remove the fundamental barriers between what is considered noise and what is considered music has left us in an almost paralysing situation. The freedom to turn the world directly into music can be so huge it’s sometimes easier to return to the familiar musical patterns. It’s not so surprising then that in a time when we are presented with the most important tool a musician can have, many still use it to sample their favourite records and as a shortcut to ‘authenticity’. It is for this reason that I wrote the manifesto PCCOM to prevent myself from treading this familiar route. There are 8 tracks from this album that have been written according to the rules of this manifesto and whilst I have largely always written music in this way, it represents a clear format for the majority of my music to be written to in future.”