Release Date: Jun 1, 2015
Record label: Accidental
Matthew Herbert is a man of many talents. With a back-catalogue spanning two decades, ranging from minimalist house to disco-infused electronica, he’s shown himself to be an artist with range. And that's not to mention the sound art. Herbert first found notoriety with his “found sound” projects, which include recording the life cycle of a pig – from birth to plate.
Although he's released eight full-lengths over the past nine years, Matthew Herbert is billing The Shakes as the proper follow-up to 2006's Scale. After flirting with conceptual sound experiments (One Pig), nu-jazz (There's Me and There's You) and even symphonic music (Mahler Symphony X), Herbert promised to return to the dance floor for this LP. But over 12 sonically tight anthems, featuring vocals from Amy Winehouse's former backup singer, Ade Omotayo, and Hejira vocalist Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne, The Shakes takes on a more reserved, polished and airy sound than what Herbert has dubbed "house music.
Few producers could pull off a line like "in the battle for it all, there's a boy with a hand and love within," but Matthew Herbert has never been one to shy away from such statements. His new album, The Shakes, is full of impassioned declarations and inspirational vagaries ("rise to unknown places, love in symmetry"). It's a tone that reflects the mythology surrounding the name Herbert, which the producer hasn't used on a release since 2006's Scale.
Qualities generally associated with Matthew Herbert include activism, topicality, restlessness and originality. There’s therefore a sense in which it’s quite surprising to find him return to more straightforward dance music and his Herbert moniker, used for the first time since 2006’s Scale. After a few years focused on his more experimental, largely instrumental side (2013’s The End Of Silence might have been his most uncompromising, and certainly least melodic work), it’s both strange and refreshing to hear strong vocalists once again in the foreground in his music.
Matthew Herbert “infuses” music with meaning by sampling multitudinous sounds, building dance records from these sources instead of from drum machines and synths. This thoughtful, complicated approach has led him to a dizzying array of projects, often based on house structures but ranging from work with Björk and Róisín Murphy, through many remixes to film and theatre scores, and a position at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. We must question whether the facets of Herbert’s curious compositions co-exist effectively: should one read around them or is knowing his approach enough? And do they stand up on their own? His perspective is not as heavily signposted here as on One Pig or his more political sets, freeing parts of The Shakes to be truly anthemic as well as textural and groovy.