Herbert | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Herbert 

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HERBERT

Upon releasing his latest album, Bodily Functions (K7/Soundslike), British dance-music producer Matthew Herbert posted the Personal Contract for the Composition of Music--a ten-point manifesto not unlike Dogma 95's Vow of Chastity that he adheres to in his own work--at his Web site, www.matthewherbert.com. Among its most interesting promises: no sampling other people's music, no factory preset keyboard sounds, and no replication of traditional sounds when it's physically and financially feasible to use the real thing. For someone so immersed in the technology-driven dance-music world, it's a relatively bold stance; in interviews Herbert claims he's chosen this path to reduce the cookie-cutter sounds that litter electronic music today and also to challenge himself. The album succeeds in that respect: the babbling of an infant is transformed into a beatscape on "You're Unknown to Me," the sounds of laser eye surgery (courtesy of Matmos, whose A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure was constructed using samples from surgical procedures) serve as percussion on "You Saw It All," and a recording of a mouse trying to paw its way out of a trash can provides texture (not to mention symbolism) on "Addiction." This may all sound hopelessly conceptual or gimmicky, but in fact the record's warmly melodic and fairly accessible--not for nothing did Bjork hire Herbert to craft beats on her new Vespertine. Driven by a mix of subtle houselike rhythms and swinging grooves, most of the songs feature Dani Siciliano's smoky pop singing and Phil Parnell's jazzy piano, although a few instrumentals delve into a surprisingly passable strain of electro-influenced postbop. Both Siciliano and Parnell are with Herbert on this U.S. tour; he'll be manning keyboards and the sampler, where he typically creates stuff on the fly. Friday, August 31, 10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-4140.

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