On the face of it an album documenting the lifecycle of an anonymous pig created from field recordings doesn’t sound like a compelling prospect. But I’ve been addicted to the music of Matthew Herbert ever since I saw him make a song by sampling his own consumption of a cheese sandwich live at the Big Chill Festival. Following 2010’s relatively accessible 'One One' and 'One Club' releases, 'One Pig' is an intense listening experience.
Herbert has focussed on the food chain before – notably with 2005’s highly regarded 'Plat du Jour' – and he’s also made records about, for example, human body noises and everyday domestic life ('Bodily Functions' and 'Around The House'). Always using the same process of sampling the actual sounds and then making music with and around them, Herbert’s technique seems so ascetic that his unquestionable influence on mainstream dance music is nothing short of extraordinary.
Of course, the technique is no gimmick and the diversity of his output testifies to an accomplished musicianship – evidenced by his jazz-tinged forays with The Matthew Herbert Big Band and the film music album, 'Score'. He’s also a highly regarded remix artist and has worked with such acclaimed acts as Bjork and Super Furry Animals.
So back to 'One Pig' and the album that has enraged animal rights activists for reasons I don’t really understand since it’s a very sincere chronicling of the birth, life and death of a pig - thought provoking, sympathetic and apolitical. The tracks run in chronological order over about a year, with a coda some eight months after the pig has been killed and eaten.
Now I wouldn’t say it’s packed with catchy tunes, but the dance rhythms that underpin Herbert’s work are fully present and the flow of the album has energy and drama. Most of the tracks take a while to get going and so picking highlights is an invidious task, however 'August 2010', where the pig actually gets cooked and eaten and 'May 2011', the final coda are my own favourite moments.
All told 'One Pig' is a riveting, well-made album of great music that draws you in not just through the strength of its proposition but with the power of its content. It’s highly entertaining and I guarantee you’ll never feel quite the same about eating a bacon sandwich.
STREAM: Matthew Herbert - May 2011 by fadedglamourblog
Download a free Micachu remix of 'December' here. 'One Pig' is available to purchase at iTunes, amazon.co.uk etc.