When I first heard the premise for this album, it intrigued me. Much in the same way that Matmos used surgery sounds on last years A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure, Matthew Herbert has sampled the sounds of the body (as the title suggests) and used them to help flesh out (pun intended) things a bit. Having been on the music scene for quite some time (releasing records under the name Doctor Rockit, as well as his own), Herbert has dabbled in tons of different styles, but Bodily Functions mainly finds him attacking the genre of house and reworking it with his own ideals.
Speaking of those ideals, Herbert has written up a sort of a manifesto that outlines how he samples his sounds and what is and isn't allowed in the process. Much like the film-makers of the Dogme 95 style, he embraces flaws in the process for the sake of purity, doesn't allow the use of digital instruments when real ones can be used instead (no synth strings, baby), and other fine details that may seem stifling to some, but actually add a huge breath of fresh air to this release. Basically, those expecting an entire album of flatulence and belches aren't going to find it here.
Honestly, while there are many other genres that have gotten pretty damn watered down, house is one that was definitely high on the list in terms of falling into a slump. Personally, I can't even remember the last time I heard a house album that moved me, let alone made me want to shake a little booty. While Bodily Functions still doesn't achieve the latter very often, it's still quite an achievement in that it busts out of the conformity of a stale genre.
Despite all this talk of his sampling, one of the coups of this release are the vocals of Dani Siciliano. On track after track (starting with the stunning, short opener of "You're Unknown To Me"), her voice runs the range of emotions, providing a soft foil for Herberts well-constructed tracks. After the aforementioned, torch-song opener (replete with strange little gurgling clicks and lovely violins), the disc kicks into gear with a thumping beat and wicky bassline on "It's Only." "Foreign Bodies" layers and offsets two different vocal tracks by Siciliano over bubbling beats, clicks, and all kinds of other little guttural noises, making for one of the best tracks on the release.
Despite all these great moments, there are a couple places where the disc sort of falls back into more standard house territory. "Suddenly" is funky as all hell, but works an inhabited house-lite area (albeit injected with a nice glitchy touch) while "Leave Me Now" works into sort of the same territory. Still, the album tackles other territories as well, with the very nice smokey jazz hall feel of "The Last Beat" (in which even a simple breath by Siciliano becomes a subtle, but very nice element). In the end, the 14 tracks and almost 70 minutes of music is something like house, yet almost completely different. If Herberts rules of sampling seem a bit stuffy or high-concept, they certainly didn't lend a stuffy or restricted sound to the music, as Bodily Functions teems with a free spirit.