For the past decade, Matthew Herbert has taken a different approach to record-making than most of his contemporaries. Instead of building songs from sounds created in studios, he looks for raw material in the natural world. Last year’s One Club, for instance, was created from sounds recorded over one night in a German nightclub. It’s a process that’s bound to be hit-or-miss, given its limitations; even if those tapes don’t uncover interesting sounds, he has to use them all the same. Herbert’s latest, One Pig, is about just that—the life of one pig. The artist visited the pig every two weeks, from birth to slaughter, for six months. Along the way, he captured squeals, snorts, and thuds. Post-piggy life, he captured the sounds of pork preparation and consumption, and even made instruments, paint, and candles out of pig parts.
The resulting record isn’t for the squeamish, but that’s to be expected. Parts of One Pig are compelling, like the ominous backbeat of grunts on “September,” or some of the later songs, which aren’t made up of mostly grating squeals and shuffles. But then there are tracks like “November,” which consists of snorts and the sound of a pail being struck. One Pig is a challenging record with commendable ideas, but as a listening experience, it’s hard to stomach more than once.