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Matthew Herbert: Plat Du Jour

Album: Plat Du Jour
Label: Accidental

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What do 30,000 chickens sound like? How about eggs tapped and/or rubbed against the surface of a Pyrex bowl? Answers can be heard in the opening track of Plat Du Jour, an album of ideologically invested electronic music by a producer who has increasingly made ideology his calling card. This time, Matthew Herbert takes aim at food and the way "we have handed over control of what goes in to our bodies to faceless transnational companies." The quote comes from the album's website (platdujour.co.uk), which also includes a detailed catalog of the various food-related things that Herbert crumpled, banged, chewed, swished, and spat out to make the sounds used in a curious collection of twitchy dance music.

"The Truncated Life Of A Modern Industrialized Chicken" opens the album in a surprisingly melodic and musical fashion. All of Herbert's samples get processed to the brink of unrecognizability, but eerie chirping sounds prove all the more eerie when they're identified as cries from birds cooped up to feed the slobbering masses. In "These Branded Waters," sloshing samples of bottled water give stirringly beautiful aural form to an argument against commoditization. "An Empire Of Coffee" derives its plinking sounds from Vietnamese coffee beans dropped into an empty container of a Monsanto-brand herbicide that contains the same active ingredient as Agent Orange.

Herbert refers to his project as "something akin to documentary fiction," and there's a lot to be said for an artist even attempting to aim mostly wordless music in such a pointed, political direction. Parts of Plat Du Jour sound hokey and fussily arranged in ways that lack the intimacy and luminosity of Herbert's past highpoints. As experimental compositions with a point to make, however, the better tracks bounce around questions that linger after the liner notes are filed away.