Herbert - Scale
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I think that anyone would be hard-pressed to categorize Matthew Herbert as anything less than supremely ambitious. One of the more exciting artists in the area of electronic/acoustic music, he's not only taken sampling to places that most artists only dream of, but he's added a great deal of thought to the process as well, creating the PCCOM document for creation of music and most recently started his own country.

Sometimes, his output buckles a bit under the heavy weight of it's own thought processes (last years heavily detailed Plat Du Jour is a good example), but for the most part he's gotten away with things by not only having a message but creating highly stimulating music as well. For Scale, he's relaxed his own rules just a slight bit, and the result may very well be his most inviting and poppy effort yet. Long-time partner Dani Siciliano takes lead vocals on most tracks, and instrumentation dips into lush orchestral jazz, slippery house, and even glitchy ballads.

"Something Isn't Right" opens the album and let's it be known that things are going to be a little more fun as 3 different vocalists trade off while dramatic strings swoop in over fairly straightforward beats. Meanwhile, as on other places, the lyrics pull no punches. "Moving Like A Train" sounds like a straight-up throwback to cheese-laden disco as dense orchestration dips around twangy guitar, a crisp 4/4 beat, and more great vocals from Siciliano.

The second half of the album finds Herbert playing with a bit more variety and the result is some of the best tracks he's ever done. "Birds Of A Feather" opens with some blippy, string-tinted dance music, but makes several subtle shifts and turns in a soulfull, chugging ending that's sublime. "Down" is even better, blistering through polyrhythmic sections that alternate between glitchy chamber music and queasy, frantic tech house.

Despite Herbert not completely adhering to his strict PCCOM, Scale is by no means stripped down or even relaxed, and the list of 700+ items sampled for the album reveals underlying ideas that are just as heady as his past work. This time out, though, he's played it a little more by ear, and the result is a highly enjoyable album that doesn't beg to be parsed too deeply. As with all his work, though, if you feel like peeling back the layers, there's plenty more underneath it all.

rating: 7.510
Aaron Coleman 2006-06-01 21:46:18