Album Reviews

Matthew Herbert – One Club

(Accidental) UK release date: 20 September 2010

One Club is the second part of a projected trilogy for 2010 from Matthew Herbert, comfortably one of the UK’s most inventive, honest and imaginative musicians. It could hardly be more different from its immediate predecessor, One One, on which Herbert used his own rather shaky vocals for the first time, emphasising personal and subjective concerns over the committed political and social ideals that have tended to categorise his music. Here, Herbert returns to his more conceptual approach to composition and production.

He evidently still adheres to the principles of his PCCOM manifesto, through which music should be created using only originally sourced sounds (something akin to a musical version of Lars Von Trier’s Dogme regulations). One Club fulfils this brief by capturing the nightclub experience using sounds created and recorded in the Robert Johnson nightclub in Frankfurt over a single night. Herbert apparently installed microphones all over the club, including in the DJ booth, the bar and even the toilets.

The resulting burst of characterful noise has been billed as Herbert’s ‘return’ to dance music. If this is true, it’s very much the uncompromising, mechanistic type of dance music he pioneered on Plat Du Jour and under his Doctor Rockit alias, rather than the warmer, more ingratiating moments on Bodily Functions and Around The House. He hasn’t made an album this defiantly unmelodic for some time. It’s a clanging, industrial form of dance music that is essentially a 21st century form of musique concrete. This side of Herbert’s musical personality may only emerge infrequently, but it shows him at his most experimental and creative.

As with Plat Du Jour, Herbert again seems to capture the absurdity inherent in his grand musical gestures and concepts. The music on One Club is as playful as it is combative. Tracks like Alex Duwe and Oliver Bauwe are full of quirky wheezing noises and savage interjections from sirens. On much of One Club, Herbert sounds like the mad ringmaster of a rebellious robot circus.

The very best tracks make use of sound of the people in the crowd themselves, such as the engaging chanting on Marlies Hoegines, Kerstin Basler and Marcus Bujak, the latter of which also manipulates its narrow range of sounds with tremendous skill. Again, Herbert’s purpose with this project seems to have been somewhat didactic. One Club offers a reaffirmation of the traditional relationship between performing artist, audience and venue in the face of increased corporate branding and influence in nightclubs. Whilst the music on One Club is (for the most part) not particularly accessible, it is brilliantly vibrant and celebratory.

One Club is so conceptually and sonically coherent that all its tracks seem to occupy the same space. He does not pay much attention to textural variety here, never really getting beyond a rigorous minimalism. It seems like one of the most austere records in his catalogue so far. Yet Herbert’s interest in sound and, more specifically, in the relationship between sounds, politics and people’s lives, makes him an original and significant artist. The fascination in One Club lies in how Herbert uses these bizarre, alienating sounds to create something meaningful, communal and exciting. The idea of making club music out of a club is so simple and direct – but this is something that has not really been attempted before. Who else would have thought to try?

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Festival Review: Convergence @ Various Venues, London
Track Of The Day: Herbert – One Two Three