Herbert - 'Part Six' EP (3 stars)

Herbert - 'Part Six' EP

Picture: Lola Borja

Electronic polymath Matthew Herbert makes a partially satisfying return to house music


Matthew Herbert has done a lot of things with his various musical talents, too many to go into here, so let’s just settle on calling him an electronic polymath who has recorded pig farts, made some great house music and done everything in between (and there’s a lot in between). The music that brought him to most people’s attention is his slinky vocal house, notably from his pretty timeless Bodily Functions and Scale albums from the early to mid-noughties. He then abandoned this MO and went off making batshit sonic collage albums, playing live with his big band, landing the gig as head of the New Radiophonic Workshop, and generally behaving like the part-alchemist, part-mad professor, part-audio boffin, part-idiosyncratic composer we all suspected was bursting to get out.

And now he’s back making house again under his Herbert moniker after an eight-year hiatus. It’s a tentative return – this four-track EP seems to be a reminder to himself as much as to the listener that he is capable of mining that formerly rich seam of serpentine and refined house. Lead track ‘One Two Three’ proves that he has not lost his touch; it’s just a delightful, breezy, elegant, warm tune, lifted by coquettish vocals from London singer Rahel, and carried along by a coiling, gauzy groove. It’s all just deliciously simple and inviting.

The rest of the EP seems relatively workmanlike by comparison. ‘Manny’ is a slightly irritating and skittish bit of loopy nonsense; ‘My DJ’ is an equally curious and faintly gloomy slice of wonky house; and ‘Grab That Bottle’ is a kind of PG-13 acid house track that lacks any real menace, but has a certain enigmatic goofy charm.

So we’ve learnt that Matthew Herbert can still make tasteful, smart, sinuous vocal house, but is that knowledge enough to sate his own voracious appetite for discovery? If you make it, Matthew, we will listen.

Matthew Herbert: 20 Pianos, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Sat 2 Aug.

Matthew Herbert: 20 Pianos

The musical story of twenty pianos from around the world, performed on a table using bespoke software and hardware created by the Radiophonic Workshop.

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