The Matthew Herbert Big Band - There
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The Matthew Herbert Big Band
There's me And There's You

Matthew Herbert albums have become increasingly more massive and detailed over the course of the past decade. His most recent work has not only involved huge orchestral arrangements, but incredibly detailed sound sampling as well. There's Me And There's You is no different, with epic listings of different source samples that help reinforce the political and social issues that Herbert has been tackling for some time now. This newest effort also finds him collaborating for the first time with London-based singer Eska Mtungwazi, who seems to have a bit more jazz chops than his long-time partner Dani Siciliano, but is also a bit more over-the-top.

As his work has progressed, Herbert's protests have grown at nearly the same rate as his arrangements, and There's Me And There's You is somewhat overstuffed on both accounts. "Pontificate" is a perfect example, as sound sources include a royal bible, 70 condoms scraped across a floor, and a Gap t-shirt from the (red) campaign. The result is a squiggling big-band track with belches of electronics that's held on the rails with some pumping horn arrangements and vocals by Mtungwazi. "Battery" careens around for well over six minutes, with some nicely punctuated bursts, but again it's hard to peel away the sampled sources and actually discern how much they add to the track (and in some cases, the willfully deconstructionist sections actually detract).

And really, much of the release progresses the same way. Even if one were to completely discard the booklet full of sound sources, the remaining music would sound fairly jumbled, with moments of bursting big-band fun offset by odd ambient passages and shards of samples that often just sound more like a clever trick than a good idea. If the liner notes are to be believed, the release even contains a bit of a snuff audio (unarmed protestors being shot by Israeli IDF soliders), and although it makes for a good protest (along with the gleefully subversive lyrics), the resulting album doesn't always play out so smoothly. I'm probably not as big of a Herbert fan as many, but this is one of his first releases where I feel like the process has impeded the music itself. There are still some fine moments here, but there's more chaff than usual.

rating: 610
Aaron Coleman 2008-11-20 22:04:07