Reissue CDs Weekly: Matthew Herbert, Julia Holter, Miles Davis, Monotreme Records | New music reviews, news & interviews
Reissue CDs Weekly: Matthew Herbert, Julia Holter, Miles Davis, Monotreme Records
A landmark in electronic eccentricity, modern mood music, Miles' final five albums and a moreish indie sampler
Herbert: Bodily Functions (Special Edition)
Thomas H Green
Matthew Herbert is an electronic polymath whose career is fascinating whether you’re a fan of his music or not. Currently he’s working hard resurrecting the BBC’s iconic music and sound effects unit, the Radiophonic Workshop, and he’s recently released an album (as Wishmountain) sampling the top ten best-selling items in Tesco’s, while also having time for the odd Björk collaboration and the occasional tour wherein pig parts are cooked on stage in an anti-consumerist sonic performance art extravaganza. In short, Herbert has grown into the go-to guy for art created from found sounds. Although he made an album sampling household objects in 1998, it was 2001’s Bodily Functions that really woke tastemakers up to this talent of his.
The album is built around samples of human body-related noises, from laser eye surgery to the brushing of hair, and was hailed at the time as Herbert’s “coming out” from the house/techno scene into territories of wider musical interest. What’s striking about it now is that it’s hardly house/techno at all – it’s jazz! Herbert’s then-wife Dani Siciliano provides a range of suitably loose, scatty vocals and the whole thing is lathered in late night piano, be-bop basslines and the occasional muted trumpet. “On Reflection” is typical – it sounds like a number that one might hear floating from a neon-lit jazz bar at 2 a.m., easy and smoky, but overlaid with tints of electronic glitch.
This 11th-anniversary release is accompanied by a second disc of remixes. Many might have used this as an opportunity to introduce bang-up-to-date club sounds, but Herbert’s choice of remixers is more cool and curious: a piano interpretation of “Suddenly” by Phil Parnell, a bubbling 10-minute abstract squelch “Addiction” from Nobukazu Taklemure, and even the house remix by Recloose is sofa-sprawled, deep and laid back. Highlights include Jamie Lidell’s complete realigning of “The Audience” as a lost electro Supremes’ number and Plaid’s typically tasty classic electronic spin on “Foreign Bodies. Nothing pushes things notably into 2012 but, then again, Bodily Functions sounds contemporary anyway or, at least, intriguingly and admirably outside the general run of things.
Julia Holter’s second album was issued in March this year on the US label RVNG Intl and has now been picked up for a wide release. Finding import copies wasn’t hard, but the swift reissue (in a slighty reconfigured sleeve) and European availability will further help this album to be heard. And it has to be heard. Ekstasis is amongst this year’s best, capturing a singular voice as it tussles with framing the experimental in something more direct. The touchstone is the circularity of Arthur Russell, but instead of borrowing (like so many blinded by Russell), Holter’s sound-world is her own. Her dreamy, marshmallow, multi–tracked singing shimmers above harpsichords, trumpet-voluntary peels, martial percussion, a hurdy gurdy-like drone and the hazy pulse of The Orb. With her closest peers Norway’s Susanna & the Magical Orchestra and Denmark’s Our Broken Garden, Holter’s beautiful Ekstasis soars effortlessly to the very highest stratum of modern mood music.
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