Hervé: Art of Disappearing

[17 June 2013]

By Darryl G. Wright

A Record You Won't Delete, But May Never Play In Public.

You have to know your audience. I was young and living in a new city. At the time I had played a few chill out nights at clubs but I would take any opportunity to knock at the door of my new local scene. I got to talking to this fellow at a party one night who, upon hearing I was a new DJ on the scene, offered to give me a spot at a party he was playing the following weekend. I had picked up a whole stack of new trance records that I loved. I had visions in my head of playing them for a dance floor on the verge of frenzy.  So when his mid-tempo, middle-of-the-road, minimal house set was complete, I yawned before dropped my first track—a floor destroying pounder of grand scale. Horns blared in euphoric drama, breaks scattered, and uplifting synths showered the previously conversing but now completely perplexed party attendants with misplaced spiritual transcendence. I noticed a young lady dip a chip into some hummus and then abandon it to approach me instead. I was lost in delusions of projected appreciation. I took off my headphones as if to invite her praise. I leaned over my bingo table turned musical pulpit and she met my gleeful self-assuredness with an unexpected disdain. Before I knew what hit me, she asked, “What the @%#$ are you doing?”

Moments like these are important—I never considered for a moment that there was an unspoken social consensus to party music. To this day I will stand by the quality of those records I was spinning but what was all wrong about it was the fact that it didn’t fit.

As I listen to Hervé‘s Art of Disappearing I felt a similar reaction to that of the young girl who condemned me so many years ago. There is something otherworldly about Hervé’s sound but not in a way that’s easy to appreciate. It just doesn’t fit. It walks a middle ground between the austere electronic experiments of anything in the Hyperdub catalog and the more trendy pop-dub crossover.

“Bears” is just too slow and lethargic to enjoy with a sound mind. Echoing strings pluck out a melody over a scratchy and distorted clap and warped bass. The entire track is washed in static or ocean waves—perhaps a little of both. “Feels Like I’m Coming Home” is certainly innovative with it’s barely-even-trying boom and tap percussion. The bass line contorts uncomfortably while a vocal sample of the title of the track grumbles, pitched down so low it’s barely discernible.

“Gold Feet” features the vocals of Maria Minerva and attempts to walk the now familiar path of artists like Massive Attack—a chilled out soulful vocal over minimal dub drum and bass. It’s like bowling—not bad but not good either. It rolls straight down the middle of the isle and misses all the pins. But you keep playing. “Save Me” and “Somebody” offer a sort of psychotic pop as heard through a sound-retardant undulating wall of ectoplasm. 

At “Lose Control” and “Mountains” I found it actually began to win me over. While in a similar vein to its previous track, “Lose Control” sounds more endearing and the seemingly Asian-influenced synth line in “Mountains” is undeniably dramatic in its urgency. There’s no vocals on this one either so it works best as a simple dub track.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this record is that days later when I listened to it again it sounded slightly more familiar and weirdly appealing. I’ve come to know it as a grower—a curiosity I wouldn’t dream of playing for a friend but a secret I might keep locked within my music player.

As a former DJ himself and even collaborator with Fatboy Slim it surprises me that Joshua Harvey (Hervé) would produce something with so little reach. But then I don’t know what kind of parties he’s playing. When he throws down Art of Disappearing there may be hoards of undead who shuffle and limp along snarling with a dull but significant delight. If he dropped it at my party though, I’d have to ask him what the @%#$ he was doing.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/170547-herve-art-of-disappearing/