Ambitious even by Matthew Herbert’s individual, shapeshifter standards intended to send synopsis writers scurrying, The End of Silence imagines the aftermath, aftershock and flashback of a bomb going off. Obviously not as simple as that, a three-part improvisation of musique concrete with real meaning, composed as a left-for-dead transmission and depicting a grim need for survival when deciding whether to lie low or make a run for it, attempts to make sense (if there is any sense to be gleaned) of such callousness. Without cheapening the sentiment, the bare bones are: the explosion hits (a real-life Libyan field recording), Herbert reacts.
Clearly you’re gonna have to get into the right frame of mind before taking this on (make sure the surround sound is sorted as well), and also understand Herbert’s development of his muse was far from the frontline but envisioned in a UK barn. Though anomalous throughout each episode, it’s rare for there to be any moments of deathly silence. Herbert and his think-tank band convey more the suspended shock of being adjacent to the blast, gunfire and combat still in muffled earshot in anticipation of further detonations. As confusion reigns a disorientating peace persists bordering on misplaced optimism, jumping like paused videotape while eerie runs of electricity tangle with genuine melody.
Ears ringing, stomach knotting, heart racing, Herbert slips you in and out of consciousness, pulls you underground and makes you scrabble back upwards toward daylight.
File under: Global Communication, Plaid, Mouse on Mars
Herbert Complete is just Herbert — not Matthew Herbert (well, it is…you’ll see), not Wishmountain or Radio Boy or Doctor Rockit, or his Big Band, or any other business card he can pull out with his name asterisked or in small print. It’s just the Englishman, long regarded as a resourceful/stabiliser of the impractical, subversive, electronic eccentric, displaying his dancefloor chops on this mammoth anthology of reissues, remixes, B-sides, extra extras and stories to tell.
1996’s 100lbs is US-crossing deep house where a slender chic is jockeyed by boxy beats that help develop a harder head for fixed focus techno (the title track, “Take Me Back”). Two years later, Around the House finds deeper understanding of the supine position, engaging in long underwater withdrawals occasionally resting on the nearest rockery, and having Dani Siciliano boost the album’s breathing apparatus with svelte input. Despite the emergence of Herbert’s self-imposed restrictions as to recording methods, its flowing looseness makes a mockery of its grab-bag outlook, mirrored by the more open cause of headphone-cradling, jazz-speckled composure Bodily Functions.
Which in turn, keeps on ironing out the kinks of the clipped, clanky house, garage and techno, here placed in the folders of rare and unreleased club miscellany marked Early Herbert. Nuts and bolts protrude, but are bang into the groove, willing to go for the jugular, and a far cry from the pop opulence (with leftfield studies by ever screwier means) of the Abbey Road-recorded Scale. Class tells throughout, and worth educating yourself with if you wanna become a Herbert hermit.