The latest and unfortunately last issue of Skyscraper has hit the stands. A sign of the times, the mag will cease to occupy physical space and will be going entirely online in the coming months. Two of my reviews from the issue follow.
THE MATTHEW HERBERT BIG BAND
There’s Me and There’s You (CD) – !K7
Those familiar with Matthew Herbert won’t be surprised that his new effort, There’s Me and There’s You, proves a sometimes challenging, always swinging compendium of glitchy show tunes. This second release from his incarnation as The Matthew Herbert Big Band is also a highly political album. We’re told its “dominant theme is power and its abuses in the 21st century,” and its cover even features a petition for music to be “a political force of note and not just the soundtrack to over-consumption.” It’s complex and cheerily excoriating in a way that only Herbert could arrange. “The Story,” for example, begins with a rude shock of sound, a snap like lightning, then settles into heavy beats and then finger snaps before London’s Eska Mtungwazi kicks in with her powerful vocals. It’s a delight divining the mélange of sounds Herbert serves up. He swipes the sounds of matches being lit, nails being driven into a coffin, and, er, 70 condoms getting dragged across the floor of the British Museum, among others. Most provocatively, he knit “Nonsounds” together with recordings from Palestine, including cicadas, roosters, and the sound of protesters being shot against the wall separating Palestine from Israel. The see-sawing here between expertly-crafted big band sound and more abrasive electronica may prove too challenging for some, but for those accustomed to Herbert’s manic method of musical chemistry, he doesn’t fail to satisfy and provoke. – Robert Stribley
This review was originally published in Skyscraper Magazine, Issue 30 (Spring 2009)