With the use of a digital recorder and mic, this classically trained musician recorded sounds such as a mouse trying to get out of a wastebasket, the contents of a handbag, the noises of laser eye surgery, and used body sounds donated from listeners on his mailing list. The concept is wonderfully simple: sample a door slam for your kick drum, cough out a bass-line, or scratch up some glass and edit it to form a melody. Herbert has constructed this audio diary into jazz, downtempo, and house music rhythms and completed it with the beautiful vocals of Dani Sicilianos and detailed instrument arrangements using traditional instruments like bass, piano and strings.

Because of the subtle way Matthew Herbert places sounds on his latest album, 'Bodily Functions,' the listener may not be conscious of them, and if so, won't have any idea as to how they were created. He has painstakingly taken it upon himself to generate new sounds for his material as opposed to using the factory presets provided by the gear's manufacturer. "It's important to manipulate and to not except what technology has to offer. Someone, somewhere in a factory or office has decided that I would like (for example) fake oboe sounds or whatever in my studio. There are no qualities that I've expressly asked for. If you like a part of a sound you should edit it, otherwise you're constructing something out of someone else's language. As musicians we have the freedom and the ability to create our own language and we should exercise that freedom."

While these sounds may not offer the deepest of meanings upon the initial listen, Herbert hopes that his audience will read the inlay of the CD or check out his web site to explore the method and politics involved in his work. To Herbert, 'Bodily Functions' is about growing in a world where everything around you is mechanized. The assembly lines of big industry act as a metaphor for modern life as large corporations and industrial powerhouses are simultaneously creating products we've incorporated into our survival and destroying the natural environment in the process. As he explained, "I wanted to create a memento of what it's like to human-what it's like to be emotional and fragile and to regret growing older as well. Music is mechanized, food is mechanized, and the soul, spirit and humanism is slowly being removed from all the things that I grew up thinking were important." Herbert expressed that 'Bodily Functions' creates a documentation of the human experience. The recording of every day sounds he said "started as a logical expression of my immediate environment- these are the things around me-these are the people and the places that I've visited-there is a diary involved" The album is also "about creating an alternative environment of sharing. It's about warmth, integrity and honesty. It's political in that sense because it's not buying into or participating in any of the predominant moral codes."

Since the completion of 'Bodily Functions', Herbert has also expanded into new sonic territory. Instead of recording the environment he loves, he is now manipulating the sounds of the manipulators that upset him most. "George Bush is clearly one of the most evil men in the world so it seems obvious that I should be taking sounds from him." In his own way, this is a far blatantly political expression then that of his previous work. "I also despise on every level, McDonalds and what they represent. They've started off by destroying America from the inside out and are now doing it to a number of other places. So it seemed obvious that on the next record, I should take the sounds of McDonalds packaging. It's all very explicitly political and I'm very excited about it."

—Justin Hardison

www.matthewherbert.com

 

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