Matthew Herbert - Scale

2006-12-12 15:16
Around the House (1998) was built on samples of - you guessed it - household sounds, and fans of experimental stuff that requires concentrated listening and a love of skilled pretention loved it. He developed Bodily Functions (2001) from samples taken of his own and wife and singer/producer/songwriter Dani Siciliano's body sounds.

More accessible, (a couple of tracks had the flavour of compelling but unusual pop hits) it saw his work reach a more mainstream crowd with some heartbroken, sexual songs flavoured with Siciliano's silvery vocals. Ruby Blue, a 2005 collaboration with vocalist Roisin Murphy, was also hailed as a masterpiece. On Scale, Dani Siciliano is occasionally joined by a male vocalist, the hugely talented James Liddel. It's very seventies meets Broadway musical ("Wrong"), complete with violins and pacey, lyric-packed multi-layered vocals, a cheesy disco feel, and a multi-staged song structure.

Even that doesn't describe it well. It's closer to some kind of fluffy pop Debussy at times. But unexpected marimba sounds are the bass in "Movie Star" and a clock ticks through "We're in Love". Herbert never just pays tribute to his influences - he really challenges them.

Ideas-wise, "The Movers and the Shakers" is the strongest track; a protest song in which war is a seeking animal, whose breathing grows closer as we fail to take action. It's also the catchiest track, likely to set fire to alternative electronica dancefloors (it's available as a single with a few remixes).

As always, the focus stays on beautiful sounds, and however daring the compositions may be, they're always hauntingly melodic. Matthew Herbert can wear the hats of many genres, but his independence from all of them is what makes him special, and difficult to file.

Some loyalists to Herbert's more experimental or weird-sounding work may reject this as a sell-out. But Scale is aimed at people who actually listen to music, and don't just collect it to impress their CD club members. To enjoy this album, you'll need some tolerance for cheese and for atonal harmonic tendencies. Fans of Debussy (the French composer), Dani Siciliano, Diana Ross, George Clinton, Pram, Lark and African Dope electronica should give this a listen.

- Jean Barker

So you know: Herbert recorded one track in a hot air balloon, some of the drums in a speeding car, and used sounds sent in by fans. The sounds they sent are represented by 635 tiny images printed in the liner notes / CD sleeve.

To buy: Scale can be ordered online via international sites, or you can pick it up at a local shop - call first to ensure they have stock, and be prepared to pay plenty for it.


"So is Scale Herbert’s masterpiece? I think he’s shown us all by now, he’s capable of many more than just one." - Dan Raper for Pop Matters

Herbert has outdone himself when it comes to his usual conceptual three-ring circus. But, crucially, this time he's put all that theoretical effort into his most memorable songs. Sophisticated and whimsical, joyful and yet tinged with sadness, Scale is one of this year's great albums. - Jess Harvell for
Matthew Herbert is beloved of the cool set for his 70s-flavoured, sometimes experimental work, in which the concept is prominent.

ari 2007/01/15 2:22 AM
Herbert on Cool Hutnting Video check out the video on coolhunting
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.