Album Reviews

Matthew Herbert – Score

(!K7) UK release date: 26 March 2007

Matthew Herbert - Score When reading the phrase ‘modern composer’ in a press release you can either be experiencing the real deal or it can conjure up the whiff of big cheeses reeking of pretension.

The whole idea of someone still engaging in such archaic practices as orchestrating big bands, composing film scores instead of songs, deliberating which oboe goes with those shoes in that scene from that film seems oddly out of touch with the world and more than a little questionable mentally.

Luckily this is one of the many fields where Matthew Herbert excels. His nearest contemporaries would be those other cross-genre clever-clogs Brian Eno, David Byrne, Barry Adamson and possibly Jah Wobble. Just as well Herbert isn’t just a composer then, as he has been tickling the eardrums of the people under various maverick disguises as DJ, electronic wiz and fashionable producer to such quirks as Róisín Murphy (ex-Moloko) and Björk he clearly is no slouch.

This collection gathers up the cream of his first decade of writing film scores and is another step away from his usual sonic attacks with an album of traditional film music, albeit given the Herbert touch. As all good film music does, these pieces transport you into widescreen epics, bedroom scenes, action adventure and romantic comedies with the subtle interplay of instrumentation and melodies weaving their woozy cinematic thrills. That they get this done in mostly under two minutes is more than most pop songs can muster.

The infectious shuffling rhythms coursing through Gang Of Boys, the Spanish feel to Blood And Hair, the backwards masking on Bull and Cloth makes the widescreen weirder and demonstrates Herbert’s ability to get under the skin of movie to enhance the visuals to create music that lives, breathes and adds more than one dimension to the staid territory of the film soundtrack.

Only once is Score troubled by vocals on the unsettling, choppy beats and splices of choral works on the 10 minute ballet collaboration epic Rendezvous. Cut and paste monk music is both thrilling and surely in league with the devil, as it pulses, gulps and whirrs like a clockwork toy dissected in a church and reassembled by a lunatic.

From the parping jazz horns and cheeky stabs of Rivoli Shuffle, the unashamedly big band reverie of The Apartment, the Tom Waitsy bowel movement of Running From The Credits, the intense jazz-tronica re-working of Singing In The Rain to the Gallic smoky charms of café De Flore, all tracks reek of authenticity but with a little twist of electronica here or a shot of syncopation there it sharpens the edges so it doesn’t merely become an album of soundtrack pastiche.

Moods, melodies and tunes swing across the canyon of emotions from the cool, atmospheric vibes of opener Funeral and the electronic pulse of End. The blissed-out almost clubby, Nicotine bubbles along like a Four Tet relative before the Closing Theme rounds things off appropriately with a romantically evocative piano, accordion and harpsichord combo to make you look forward to your next movie date with Herbert after he’s provided thrills beyond the usual rancid popcorn and bucket of sugary soda.

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Herbert – The Shakes
Festival Review: Convergence @ Various Venues, London
Matthew Herbert – The End of Silence