Being a DJ is big business – just ask Tïesto, who was recently placed top of the world’s 30 richest with a reported net worth of $65million. With his fingers in several pies, Hervé knows only too well that DJs are both superstars and savvy businessmen. But just as they can turn a crowd into a euphoric, worshipping mess, that hunger for the ecstatic reaction can leave their own creations lacking in invention.
Hervé is now synonymous with filthy beats, having cemented that reputation with Ghetto Bass – two albums of multi-genred mixes from Bloc Party and The Kills, to Skream and Passion Pit. In dance circles his production skill and ability to turn a hand to remix just about anything are widely regarded. And as well as his vicious DJing schedule, he heads up record label Cheap Thrills and fosters countless side projects including The Count & Sinden (he being The Count part of that particular bargain).
Nevertheless, Pick Me Up, Sort Me Out, Calm Me Down is Hervé’s first record comprised solely of his own material. Its gargantuan beats are a reflection of the high octane lifestyle he leads, but they leave a longing for more melodic moments to soothe the ears. It’s business as usual for for the most part, with signature elements of dubstep, rave and drum ‘n’ bass blended to produce a grinding, bass-heavy concoction.
Opener Gloomin has misfiring Ford Transit sounds and crushing metal, but uncomfortable moments – including a computer-generated violin-loop – don’t get the album off to a good start. A relentless pace bosses most of the album, Return Of The Living Dead (Zombies 2) being almost impenetrable, despite its repeated, “Yes, I’ve seen zombies”, that conjures visions of a panicked witness being interviewed on The 6 O’Clock News. And although Blamalama begins with much-needed melody, in truth, this and Gnarly – an exemplar ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ track – are primed only for clubs.
Homage and recent single Better Than A BMX ticks every box in the list of elements essential for a chart-friendly dance hit. Catchy and consumable, it has auto-tune vocals, a touch of current, commercial dubstep and hands-in-the-air moments. It’s prime V Festival fodder, but leaves little meat for nibbling off its bones.
For all the ear-bending bass, Hervé’s flirtation with a variety of dance subgenres is audible. How Can I live Without You (Make it Right) wealds ’90s elements to that same industrial wobble he skimmed from dubstep, just as it was about to go mainstream. But it’s the ability he has to be able to step out of his niche that has lent him his reputation to date. Spanning house, dubstep and electro, and even blending some of the baile funk dancehall rhythms of Diplo, he has wide appeal. It’s this versatility that’s also meant he’s worked with others like Fatboy Slim on single, Machines Can Do the Work.
Commercial exploits and dirty bass aside, in flashes, Hervé does more than just revisit the car garage for his sound toolkit. Bike Ride in June is one of his most melodic efforts, with a blissed-out, baggy beat that uses a sultry, hot sun melody to prompt visions of heat hazes in the midday sun. A little of Sinead O’Connor and Kate Bush also elevate Night Turns Into Day.
Much here is the sonic kin of his previous mix albums, or the kind of stuff he’d spin on a dancefloor. This is also the very reason why it doesn’t work as a bona fide album, with a journey from start to finish. Melody and diversity could have so easily been Hervé’s trump cards – he’s shown he can play those hands – but instead, the record is faintly nauseating.