Matthew Herbert is an unassuming name for this trailblazing, experimental UK sound-artist, which must be why he’s used so many aliases throughout his 20-year career: Doctor Rockit, Radio Boy and Mr. Vertigo, amongst others. By any name, Herbert refuses to be pigeonholed. His catalogue is laundry list of genres, from jazz to minimal techno to avant-garde noise. Even Herbert’s longest-standing devotees can never predict what form his feverish creativity will take next.
All we can do is predict where he’ll be. To wit: starting tomorrow night (Wednesday, May 29), we’ll be savouring what he’s cooked up at MUTEK Montreal. Herbert will bring three distinct performances to the table at MUTEK, starting with his controversial One Pig project.
First unleashed in 2011, One Pig is a challenging sonic experience, consisting of “grunts, the clatter of cutlery and even a wind instrument that runs on pig’s blood.” Yummy. Herbert has explained that the project is a commentary on the cultural place of meat, its consumption and its brutal industrial origins. Helping Herbert hit the point home (at MUTEK only) is chef Martin Juneau, of Montreal’s Pastaga, who will roast a pig during the show.
“The first question I’m always asked,” said Herbert in an SOS interview, “is, ‘Why are you making a record out of a pig?’ And for me, that’s the wrong question. You should be asking everybody else why they’re making a record with a guitar. There’s been millions and millions of records made out of guitars, and not so many made out of pigs.”
Also in a political vein is Herbert’s The End of Silence (performance Saturday, June 1), in preparation for an upcoming album of the same name. According to press materials, The End Of Silence was composed “entirely from a 10-second sound recording” of war photographer Sebastian Meyer being bombed by Libyan air forces in 2011. And it sounds like it. In an avant-noise vein that drifts between soothing Basinski loops and unsettling Throbbing Gristle distortion, Herbert and his band craft a harrowing sonic realm that turns the “virtual word back into the visceral”.
Needless to say, Herbert’s oeuvre is definitely not for all tastes, but hell, this is MUTEK after all. For listeners craving challenging sounds and even more challenging ideas, nobody will satisfy your appetite quite like Matthew Herbert.
That’ll do, pig!