Over the course of 10 years and nearly as many noms de disc, electronic producer and experimentalist Matthew Herbert has invented himself as not just one of the finest producers working in the dance-music genre, but also one of its truly unique visionaries. With his last two recordings ... Matthew Herbert Big Band's Goodbye Swingtime and last year's Plat Du Jour ... Herbert combined jazz composition, random sampling and found-sound everyday-isms into a signature that begins looking like dance music's James Joyce or Flann O'Brien.
With Scale, Herbert has completed his transformation from dance producer dropping 12-inch singles for DJs to mix to onion-peel postmodernist composer and experimentalist, and now the combination thereof.
Sure, Herbert used 723 objects in Scale's production, from Pepsi can and parakeet to hot-air balloon and speeding sports car (recording the album's drums in the latter two). But along with a neighbor's blender or a girlfriend's felt-tipped pen, Herbert also borrowed Prince's melodic booty groove ("Moving Like a Train"), Madness's infectious pop melancholy ("Harmonise") and the rainy sexuality of British R&B vamps like Lisa Stansfield ("Those Feelings"). So, too, Herbert appropriates frequent collaborator Dani Siciliano's breathy vocal cords and the Big Band's flowing French horns and pizzicato string section.
Scale is simply a perfect totemic, impressionistic dance-music vision of modern life. Comprised, yes, of oddities and eccentricities when put under a microscope, when blasting from the speakers at a midnight club or on a 4 a.m. car ride, Scale's production becomes meaningless in the near-perfect glow of its shimmering melodies and circulatory beats.