Boomkat Product Review:
Matthew Herbert reprises his hugely popular big band setup, powering a kind of postmodern protest record combining his signature sample contortions with soulful vocal performances and extravagant, jazzy brass arrangements. Typical of Herbert's work this record isn't merely a conventional studio record (although the big band component was laid down at Abbey Road), and certain sequences were orchestrated as scenarios to be played out and recorded on location at such spaces as the British Museum and the Houses Of Parliament. Using all the pomp and circumstance associated with the big band format, Herbert fashions an album about political power, religion, monarchy and the various ways by which authority can be abused. The way these themes come to light isn't only down to the lyrical content (with vocals soulfully handled by Eska), it's also caught up in the sampling: you'll hear credit cars being cut up, nails being hammered into coffins, and condoms being dragged across museum floors. It's down to a great talent and a not inconsiderable intellect that these often rather pranksterish gestures don't come across as empty or tokenistic. For example, 'One Life' commemorates the lives lost in the Iraq war, sampling the bleep from a hospital incubator - the very same one that kept Herbert's prematurely born son alive for eight weeks. On a less poignant, yet no less creatively resonant note, Herbert also coaxes a variety of political contributors to help out on 'The Yesness', a collage piece which features cameos from the likes of Tony Benn and former PM John Major. Given all the conceptual heaviness behind the album, it's incredibly listenable, and while all the serious, thematic content is very much at the forefront, this is by no means a difficult record to absorb. Excellent.