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Herbert - 100 lbs

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Artist: Herbert

Album: 100 lbs

Label: !K7

Review date: Jan. 16, 2007

Herbert’s early 12”s, compiled in part on 1996’s 100 lbs disc, which has just been reissued by !K7 with an extra disc of rare singles and unreleased material, broke him free of the conceptronics of early recordings as Doctor Rockit and Radio Boy. Where those aliases dealt with specific material and/or phenomena as foci for tracks – pepper pots, royal weddings, you know, the usual – with 100 lbs, Herbert found the floor and with it a way to integrate his borderline-ascetic approach to micro-sampling with the demands of the body.

At the time of their original release, I recall reading comparisons between these singles and Philippe Zdar’s Motorbass productions. Tellingly, both have since been hailed as pioneers of micro-house, and certainly, within 100 lbs you can hear a template for the skip of Akufen and the playful swing of Hand on the Plow. Tracks like “Thinking of You” and “Pen” weave form, function and pleasure together: bassic thump; hi-hats that hiss like white noise; that unmistakable Herbert ‘Swingtime’ feel; tiny scrapes, clanks and hums that coalesce to create armour knitted from tiny glitches and mistakes.

At its best, 100 lbs combines heavy bass with melodies and phrases that sound light as air. In his commentary on the disc, Herbert correctly suggests that his slinky, sensual productions from this era work as counterpoint to the big-room muscle-flex of masculinity that was going on in so much house from the same era. Herbert offers a different kind of heaviness, one borne of the essentials, just enough to make the track swing.

One small complaint: the extra disc that comes with this edition of 100 lbs feels like a missed opportunity. It doesn’t collect together the remaining tracks from the Parts 1-5 series of singles, along with the Birds and Classic Herbert 12”s, which contain some of his most significant productions from the era. Instead, the disc offers a gentle weave of mystery from 1995 to 2000. Admittedly, it’s all fantastic stuff, some of which betters 100 lbs, particularly 1998’s “I Hadn’t Know (I Only Heard).” Here, Dani Siciliano’s vocals fade away just as you catch them, lost beneath mic hum and tape hiss, dissected on Herbert’s tabletop and sent spraying across the spectrum, each syllable turned into an obsessive-compulsive tic, while the track loops the lightest breath of texture and rhythm into an endless mnemonic.

By Jon Dale

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