When 100 lbs first appeared, in 1996, the album sleeve featured the ghostly apparition of Matthew Herbert – in looks part Ivor Novello, part Herman Munster. For this re-release the electro-organic wizard has removed his mugshot and his first name. To prevent confusion, and because Herbert as a band name is about as good as Appleton, we’ve added his first name back in again. With me so far?
Good, because there’s the small matter in hand of why 100 lbs is being re-released. Earlier this year Herbert’s new work Scale appeared to salivating reaction, if not quite scintillating sales figures, and all sorts of people who really should have heard of him before now wondered why they hadn’t. For added incentive to buy, and as it’s record label !K7′s 21st year in business, there’s a bonus CD too this time round, which lasts just as long as the main album. Quality and value: check and check.
Matthew Herbert’s inventive take on dance music, especially in recent years, is to take the emotion of a piece to its logical conclusion. If a track makes him think of floating above fields in a hot air balloon, why, he’ll record sample parts of the tune in a hot air balloon. Without sleeve notes or a press release guiding the listener through each sample’s origin, some of this meticulous construction is a little lost in appreciation of the end product, but the album’s sonic lack of clutter highlights an artist at the height of his game nonetheless.
Always on a different level from his electro peers, on 100 lbs Herbert runs the gamut of downtempo ambient through leftfield experimental, with high modulation samples competing with precise, deep down bass dubs and every loop throwing up new sonic surprises. In the mix he’s left plenty of space so each piece of each track can be heard in crystal-clear comfort. With track names like Back To The Start, Back Back Back Back and Take Me Back, it’s a journey back in time, and some of the piano parts are pure old school.
The highlights come thick and fast from the off, with Thinking Of You laying effortless claim to one of the best-produced dance tracks of the ’90s, whether anyone’s heard it or not. Impossible to improve in any way, it faces off a subtle rhythm that anchors itself to the frontal lobe of the listener’s consciousness while echoless bass and reverb-laden synth chords swirl about in a state of sultry bliss. And then it builds through insistent pizzicato synth and that old school piano.
A bonus CD features the most experimental, dubby tracks of the record, particularly on The Puzzle. It’s all chilled enough to be enjoyed with headphones late at night, or in a bar, in a club – anywhere, really. Sonic purists will love the album’s production, while fans of blissful beats will find themselves craving more. There are no diva guest spots here, and somehow the result is all the purer for it.
It’s not much of a stretch to imagine would-be electronic musicians hearing 100 lbs 10 years ago and being inspired enough to decide that music was where their passion and means of expression lay. This is a louche, inventive and blissed-out record with many levels to appreciate. It has stood the test of time, and will continue to do so.