Herbert: Secondhand Sounds

Herbert: Secondhand Sounds

The electronic-composition vs. traditional-music-making debate has been sneaking into the dance world with increasing frequency. From the song-based approach of Basement Jaxx's Rooty to loop-fleeing glitch techno to the renewed interest in post-punk/post-disco, dance culture is showing all the signs of a scene starved for content and soul. Herbert, the reigning English genius of microhouse, has been fanning the flames for a few years now. Last year, he applied his brilliant production touch to an accomplished songwriting project on Bodily Functions, and in 2000, he gave the art of the DJ a playfully human manifesto on his mix-disc Let's All Make Mistakes. Herbert's organic method—typified by a Dogme '95-like treatise on electronic production—carries over on Secondhand Sounds, a double-disc collection of remixes dating back to 1996. Few artists could make two remix discs worth hearing, but Herbert's work bursts with a manic energy liable to leave even skeptical detractors ignoring the border between dance music and plain old "music." Like Lee "Scratch" Perry, Herbert plays the mixing board as an instrument, piling his tracks with electronic whirligigs and rhythmic gizmos marked by childlike wonder and discreet sophistication. His mix of Dimbiman's "Koppchen" lurches and skips, rubbing weightless micro-beats under stuttering vocal fragments and electro bass runs that ooze melody. He plies that approach to limitless ends on 21 tracks, ranging from unassuming minimalist reductions ("Aerosoul," a spray-can-sampling song by Herbert's alias Wishmountain) to soft and tender singalongs (Moloko's "Sing It Back," Serge Gainsbourg's "Bonnie & Clyde," Austrian lounge lizard Louie Austen's "Hoping"). Rivaled only by U.S. garage god Todd Edwards for his highly musical, singular style, Herbert is an idea man who brings theory out of its studious back rooms and into a realm equally suited for home listening and smile-widening club revelry.

More Music Review