Matthew Herbert - Bodily FunctionsBodily Functions was released in 2001, four years after Matthew Herbert had drawn up his Personal Contract for the Composition of Music (Incorporating the Manifesto of Mistakes), establishing the principles he would follow when making music in the 21st century. No drum machines, no synthesizers, no presets, no replication of acoustic instruments. He could use samples, but not merely lift other people's material—he had to source his own, and, what's more, declare the sources. So it was with Bodily Functions, whose rhythms are partially derived from various body parts—knuckles, skin, teeth, bones, even the sounds produced by an unborn child. Bodily Functions is highly conceptual, yet also luxurious and immersive—essentially, it's a lesson in how to make immaculate popular music without taking lazy short cuts.
Tracks like "It's Only" and "Foreign Bodies" are lush and tonal, shimmering somewhere between deep house and swingtime jazz. Behind the velvet curtain, however, the rhythms churn and grind in arrestingly unorthodox ways. Standouts include the ultra-cool "You Saw It All" and "The Last Beat," whose title alone invites deep meditation. Boldily Functions remains exemplary, a work of absolute physical integrity that 11 years on feels undated, as durable as an art installation.
The reissue includes a remix CD, which you might think flies in the face of Herbert's manifesto in a number of ways, but it was a "personal" manifesto after all, and if it's OK by Herbert than it should be OK by us, especially given the caliber of the remixers he's gathered. Herbert himself rearranges "Back to the Start" into something resembling his more recent sound inventions. Richard Devine's mix of "Leave Me Now" is steam-driven turbofunk, while Jamie Lidell's approach to "The Audience" is to rework it as a basement, Motown-style demo. Matmos take a different approach to the same track, offering a typically witty micro-dissection. Plaid takes apart "Foreign Bodies" and reworks it atom by atom; Phil Parnell renders "Suddenly" as a solo pianissimo; and even Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction is invited to recast "Addiction" in dramatic shades of sound. Nobukazu Takemura's lengthy reworking of the same track, from a chrysalis of angular, pulsating electronics to full-blown superfly butterfly, may be the pick of the bunch on this sterling collection.