Matthew Herbert

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

100lbs , 6/10
Doctor Rockit: The Music of Sound , 6.5/10
Radio Boy: Long Live Radio Boy , 6/10
Around The House , 6.5/10
Wishmountain: Wishmountain Is Dead , 6/10
Doctor Rockit: Indoor Fireworks , 5.5/10
Bodily Functions (2001) , 7/10
Secondhand Sounds , 4/10
Goodbye Swingtime (2003), 5/10
Plat du Jour (2005), 4/10
Scale (2006), 6.5/10
There's Me and There's You (2008), 5/10
Dani Siciliano: Likes (2004), 6.5/10
Dani Siciliano: Slappers (2006), 6/10
One Pig (2011), 6.5/10

Matthew Herbert, a British dj and producer of modern house who is also known as Radio Boy, Wishmountain, Doctor Rockit, shares with Matmos the honor of having pioneered the use of "organic" samples (noises, not instruments) to compose dance music.

The building blocks for his music are often random people's noises. Percussion sounds are manufactured out of sources as a heart or an unborn child (Herbert abhors drum machines). The sounds of everyday life is not only the source but also the meaning of his art.

A student of drama at Exeter University, Herbert started sampling found sounds as a way to create realistic soundtracks for his plays. Soon, he would entertain with live shows in which the sounds were created out of everyday objects and the environment. Eventually, he started applying the same technique to the dance floor.

He relocated to London in 1994 and in january of 1996 released the three EPs that marked the directions of his career: Wishmountain's Radio (ambient and techno), Doctor Rockit's Ready To Rockit (jazzy electro) and Herbert's Part One (house). In a little over four years, Herbert would release 25 singles and 4 albums, and become a fashionable disc jockey and producer.

Doctor Rockit released the EPs D For Doctor (Clear) and Recorded In Swingtime (Clear), the singles Pockit Doctor (Clear) and Pager (Multiplex), and the albums The Music of Sound (Clear, 1996), Indoor Fireworks (Lifelike, 2000), with Cafe' de Flore, and the compilation The Unnecessary History (Accidental, 2004), all devoted to domestic vignettes.

On The Music of Sound (Clear), tracks such as Cafe Beograd and Hong Kong evoke the experiences which created them; the rattling glasses, accordion fragments, and vocal snippets reconstruct these places in musical form. Simpler compositions like Granny Delicious and Runner in Hastings Park create engaging rhythms and melodies from the ubiquitous sounds of everyday life. On Song Without Words, the bare and lonely arrangement of Fender Rhodes and saxophone sketch out a scene which resolves itself later in Song Without Italian Words, where the same music is played in a cafe in Italy, complete with conversational snippets, clattering dishes, and church bells ringing in the distance.

Wishmountain has released the EPs Video (Universal Language) and Bottle (Antiphon) and the album Wishmountain Is Dead (Antiphon, 1998), his most experimental work, which utilizes found noises to create dance music.

Radio Boy has released Long Live Radio Boy (Antiphon, 1997), another abstract soundpainting, Lift Attendants Holiday (Antiphon), London (Antiphon), Sight Of Sound (Antiphon).

Herbert released the EPs Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and the albums Parts 1-3 (Phono) and the all-instrumental album 100lbs (Phono, 1996 - K7, 2006), that collected his house music. More EPs followed: Birds (Back To Basics), Got To Be Movin' (Classic), Going Round (Phonography), Never Give Up (Phonography), So Now (Phonography), Live Dubs (Phonography), Back To The Start (Plug Research), We All Need Love (Phonography). The album Around The House (Phonography, 1998), that used the sounds of household objects, featured the first songs.

In 2000 Herbert published an artistic manifesto in which he proclaimed his loathe of sampling (of other people's music) and of drum machines.

Herbert had been studying jazz on the piano and took on songwriting, and the result was the intimate Bodily Functions (K7, 2001). Its electronic jazzy songs are constructed around the manipulated sounds of an unborn child (the nocturnal piano-based lounge-soul ballad You're Unknown To Me), of percolating blood (the fractured, robotic Foreign Bodies), of a heart (the chamber-jazz elegy On Reflection), of bottles (the fragile Addiction), of a surgical laser (the gospel-ish You Saw It All), etc. Sensual singer Dani Siciliano helps make the seven-minute It's Only (IDM polyrhythms, Brazilian phrasing, sparse instrumental sounds) and Suddenly (metronomic techno beat, jazzy piano solo, ethic percussion jam) more than mere sonic puzzles. I Miss You outdoes Everything But The Girl. Herbert's love for vintage jazz music (impeccably imitated in the instrumental I Know, in the smoky ballad The Last Beat, in the piano fantasia About This Time Each Day) and for house music (the thick basslines of It's Only and Leave Me Now, the ethereal Leave Me Now, the splendid rhythmic progression of album stand-out The Audience with vocal harmonies of the 1930s) are the frosting on the cake. This is his most sophisticated effort yet, a futuristic variation on Arto Lindsay's revisionist techniques. As far as "atmospheric" pop music goes, Herbert has few rivals. In a sense, Herbert is the terminal point of the zeitgeist that had begot trip-hop and jazztronica. Not surprisingly, Herbert described the album as a cycle of odes to alienation.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Walter Consonni)

Matthew Herbert, un dj e produttore inglese di modern house noto anche come Radio Boy, Wishmountain, Doctor Rockit, condivide con i Matmos l'onore di aver aperto la strada all'uso dei campionamenti "organici" (rumori, non strumenti) per comporre la musica.

Le fondamenta per la sua musica sono spesso costituite dai rumori casuali della gente. I suoni percussivi non sono prodotti in maniera convenzionale ma con un battito cardiaco o con un bambino ancora nel ventre materno (Herbert aborrisce la batteria elettronica). I suoni della vita di ogni giorno rappresentano non solo la fonte ma anche il significato della sua arte.

Studente di arte drammatica alla Exeter University, Herbert ha cominciato a campionare suoni scoperti per caso come un modo per creare una colonna sonora realistica per i suoi drammi. Presto, l'artista avrebbe cominciato ad esibirsi in shows dal vivo in cui i suoni erano prodotti avvalendosi di oggetti che si utilizzano tutti i giorni. Alla fine, l'artista ha cominciato ad applicare la stessa tecnica alla dance floor.

Herbert è tornato a Londra nel 1994 e nel gennaio del 1996 ha realizzato i tre EPs che hanno dato un orientatamento alla sua carriera: Radio come Wishmountain (ambient e techno), Ready To Rockit come Doctor Rockit (jazzy electro) e Part One come Herbert (house). In poco più di quattro anni, Herbert è stato in grado di realizzare 25 singoli e 4 albums, ed è diventato un disc jockey e produttore alla moda.

Doctor Rockit ha realizzato gli EPs D For Doctor (Clear) e Recorded In Swingtime (Clear), i singoli Pockit Doctor (Clear) e Pager (Multiplex), ed infine gli albums The Music of Sound (Clear) e Indoor Fireworks (Lifelike).

The Music of Sound (Clear) Cafe Beograd e Hong Kong rievocano le sperimentazioni che li hanno creati; bicchieri tintinnanti, frammenti di armonia e ritagli vocali ricostruiscono queste situazioni in forma musicale. Più semplicemente, composizioni come Granny Delicious e Runner in Hastings Park creano affascinati ritmi e melodie a partire dagli onnipresenti suoni della vita cotidiana. Con Song Without Words, lo scarno e solitario arrangiamento di Fender Rhodes e di sassofono abbozza una situazione che si risolve solo più tardi in Song Without Italian Words, in cui la stessa musica è suonata in un caffè in Italia e completata con ritagli di conversazione, acciottolio di stoviglie e campane che risuonano in lontananza.

Wishmountain ha realizzato gli EPs Video (Universal Language) e Bottle (Antiphon) e l'album Wishmountain Is Dead (Antiphon).

Radio Boy ha realizzato Long Live Radio Boy (Antiphon), Lift Attendants Holiday (Antiphon), London (Antiphon), Sight Of Sound (Antiphon).

Herbert ha dato alle stampe gli EPs Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 e gli album Parts 1-3 (Phono) e 100lbs (Phono, 1996 - K7, 2006), che raccoglie gli EPs di house music, cui hanno fatto seguito una serie di EPs: Birds (Back To Basics), Got To Be Movin' (Classic), Going Round (Phonography), Never Give Up (Phonography), So Now (Phonography), Live Dubs (Phonography), Back To The Start (Plug Research), Around The House (Phonography), We All Need Love (Phonography).

Herbert è stato studente di pianoforte jazz, il che si riflette sul songwriting, ed il risultato è rappresentato da Bodily Functions (K7, 2001). Herbert crea ballate jazzy con i suoni prodotti da un bimbo ancora nel ventre materno (You're Unknown To Me), dal sangue (Foreign Bodies), dal cuore (On Reflection), dalle bottiglie (Addiction), dal laser chirurgico e dal coro gospel (You Saw It All), e così via. La sensuale cantante Dani Siciliano contribuisce a rendere It's Only, Suddenly e Leave Me Now qualcosa di più che semplici puzzles di suoni. L'amore di Herbert per l'old-time Jazz (I Know, The Last Beat) e per l'house (le pesanti linee di basso di It's Only and Leave Me Now, la splendida progressione di The Audience) rappresentano la ciliegina sulla torta. La lunga I Miss You dimostra la sua abilità in materia di songwriting tradizionale. Questo è fino a questo momento il suo lavoro più sofisticato.

Secondhand Sounds (Peacefrog, 2002) is a mix/remix album.

On Goodbye Swingtime (Accidental, 2003) Herbert leads a Matthew Herbert Big Band (four trumpets, four trombones, five saxes, piano, bass, drums) through a program of old and new compositions, helped by conductor/composer/arranger Peter Wraight. The music was manipulated electronically by Herbert after the fact. The result is relatively conventional, closer to Harry Mancini than Gil Evans or Russell, and including several romantic ballads.

Plat du Jour (Accidental, 2005), his most political statement yet, is a mostly instrumental work that samples his various styles without succeeding at any.

Ruby Blue (Echo, 2005), credited only to Roisin Murphy, but de facto a collaboration between Herbert and Moloko singer Roisin Murphy, was Matthew Herbert's first venture into dance-floor music.

The songs of Scale (2006), his first accomplished album in five years, were built from samples of more than 600 objects (Just Once alone uses 177 sampled sounds), but, as stated in his 2000 manifesto, he refrained from simply sampling instruments. Each melody and rhythm is meticulously constructed in the studio. Even the ubiquitous "strings" are not strings at all. And, still, the result is a body of the most robust and cohesive dance songs of his career, each propelled with bouncing beats and peppered with catchy melodies. It is "lite" electronica, but nonetheless the orchestrations of The Movers and the Shakers (that harkens back to the age of funky-soul), Something Isn't Right (almost a tribute to Diana Ross and early disco-music) and Moving Like A Train (whose vocal harmonies almost match The Audience's) compare favorably with the post-modernist disco inventions of Peter Gordon. The deconstructions that remain at an abstract level, such as Harmonise (vocal side of the equation) and We're in Love (orchestral side of the equation) and Just Once (soundsculpting side of the equation), are no less intriguing than the fully realized songs. The agit-prop tirades are a nuisance, but they do not interfere too much with Herbert's madcap collage. Herbert finally returned to his specialty, and crafted an electronic tour de force, although five songs too long.

Score (2007) collects Herbert's scores for movie soundtracks.

There's Me and There's You (2008), the second album credited to the Matthew Herbert Big Band, disturbed even more elegant and catchy big-band jazz with electronic noises, and, again, referenced contemporary political events. The big band was now fronted by Zimbabwe-born vocalist Eska Mtungwazi.

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On her own, vocalist Dani Siciliano concocted Likes (K7, 2004), that introduced her as a Laurie Anderson for the digital age of Matmos, and contained the charming All The Above and the lengthy surreal collage of Same, and Slappers (K7, 2006), an even more experimental work of digital pop.

Matthew Herbert changed course dramatically on One One (2010), a traditionally singer-songwriter album that includes the gentle single Leipzig. One Club (2010) created electronic dance music from samples of a night-club. Best of the "One" series, was One Pig (2011), basically a concept about a pig's life from its birth to becoming a dish on someone's table, every "song" created from samples of the pig's life (or death). Hence we are treated to the sound of the pig's severed head rolling on a table, and to the sounds of the preparation of the meat. The only exception is the last piece, after the pig has been eaten, that is a simple elegy for voice and guitar: there is no pig anymore.

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