Reviews

Matthew Herbert Big Band

Electronic music artists are often accused of being faceless and personality-free by those who don't find their music interesting as well as those whose tastes veer toward it. The artists' anonymity stems partially from their frequent inability to make any significant statement, be it verbally or instrumentally.

With his latest album under the guise of Matthew Herbert Big Band, Goodbye Swingtime, experimental British musician Herbert devises a provocative piece of work that combines futuristic sampling with traditional instrumentation in the style of Forties big bands. What is challenging and unique about this is the political stance he takes with the samples he employs to argue against the war in Iraq, the populace's general lack of concern/interest in pertinent world issues, and their opinion being made redundant by the corporate structure's overpowering hegemony. Among the samples are phone books from around the world being slammed down and passages from political literature being read aloud (an extensive list of recommended readings is included in the sleeve notes). These elements are fitted into a conventional brass band format, for which Herbert wrote a score similar to what Glenn Miller or the Duke Ellington Orchestra would perform.

Putting confrontational pieces into a familiar jazz setting is a clever and pleasant way to get your point across. The end musical result is innovative, but it doesn't necessarily fall into the electronic realm; it doesn't challenge that genre's general apathy in the least.

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Lily Moayeri