Matthew Herbert: 100 lbs

Matthew Herbert's re-issued 1996 debut is interesting from a historical point of view, but it's the bonus disc on this K7 release that's the major payoff


100 lbs

Label: K7
US Release Date: 2007-01-23
UK Release Date: 2006-11-13

A re-release of Matthew Herbert's debut album is a convenient opportunity for a little history. The artist behind recent critic rave Scale (mine included) and Roisin Murphy's Ruby Blue began as Wishmountain and then Radio Boy, dabbling in aleatoric composition and theoretical electronica, as a student of drama in the early 1990s. Now, I don't really remember dance music in the mid '90s personally, but we do know from the history of the genre that this was an era of primitive techno, drum-n-bass, and breakbeat -- an array of heavy, "macho" (as Herbert describes it) sounds. In his debut, 100 lbs, Herbert positioned himself opposite to this macho aesthetic. The record is light, and playfully but subtly alters tempo and developmental expectations. It's no huge breakthrough, and, obscured by the haze of his subsequent achievements, seems quite understated. Still, the re-released album (and, more importantly, the co-packaged bonus disc) should be of more than passing interest to Herbert fans.

On first listen, you notice the similarities. "Pen" rattles with a strong metallic effect reminiscent of the kinds of sound the artist generates in his live show. "Friday They Dance", one of the disc highlights, takes a laid-back house beat and messes around with switching and swooshing effects that hijack the genre-constraint. The influence on other artists is clear from the outset, too: without "Rude"'s funky house bass there could be no turn-of-the-century Moloko, for instance. Throughout, the album leans on expansive, unhurried tracks in the 6-7-8 minute range; the dancefloor-length compositions are given the room to explore small ideas more or less fully.

It may be a relief to some of you to hear that the man was, at least ten years ago, somewhat fallible. His ideas age well enough, but some of the percussive effects seem flat in comparison with Herbert's later melange of kitchen-sink-and-all production style, and some of these compositions lack the structural coherence of song form he's brought to his latest work. "Take Me Back" may be the best example. The track relies too heavily on a more or less straight techno beat, and comes over as chamber-Herbert, with little flecks of ideas that a more experienced artist may have expanded and capitalized on. Percussive effects repeat themselves over the course of the disc: "Rude" and "Deeper" have an extremely similar beat, a funky house rhythm that's perfectly fine but a little bland.

But the real revelation, and the reason to invest in this particular corner of Matthew Herbert's back catalogue, is 100 lbs's bonus CD. It's nothing short of astounding, revealing just how innovative this musician was right from the beginning. Comprised of eight b-sides, remixes, and rare tracks from the period of his debut, the disc runs through a proto-Herbertian treatment of the female vocal, of Herbert's now-characteristic use of weird, wonderfully extraneous sound, and a few moments of thoroughly modern electronica. "Back to the Start Back Back Back" comes on like a clicked-up version of Hot Chip's "Over and Over". "No More Borders" melds the kind of crunchy electro those Ed Banger kids love with a minimal sense of what a track should do -- no major epiphanies, no big melodic arcs -- and emerges memorably the artist's own. And "Fishcoteque" descends into a glorious electro swirl, all the while keeping a watery, pulsing disco beat at full swing. This is great stuff, demonstrating artistic foresight and meticulous production -- more industrial, edgier than the debut itself, and hinting at the soon-to-emerge fascination with sultry femininity. For this disc alone, K7 deserves endless props.

Matthew Herbert's beginnings as an aleatoric composer aren't so evident when listening to 100 lbs, and his political leanings are less of a focus than on subsequent works. Despite this, for the sake of the bonus material and the opportunity to understand from where electronic music's leading experimentalist emerged, this reissue offers a valuable insight: we all start at the bottom of a mountain.






Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.