Matthew Herbert / Matthew Herbert Big Band

Goodbye Swingtime

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Matthew Herbert doesn't come by his swing connections lightly. As a teenager he played keyboards in a 25-piece Glenn Miller tribute band, though it must be granted, that gig was simply one among many during an active early career. (He began making music at the age of four, inspired by his father, a sound engineer for the BBC.) After a decade making records under several monikers, time spent exploring the music of sound in a dance context, Goodbye Swingtime -- his debut at the helm of the Matthew Herbert Big Band -- comes as a surprisingly trad date. Still, while the record begins with songs that flaunt his compositional skills (he and arranger Pete Wraight reveal an affinity for progressive chartmakers Stan Kenton and Gil Evans), Herbert's production abstractions do take on an increased role during the course of the record; eventually, he throws out the rule book entirely. Thus, songs toward the end will obviously be of the most interest to Herbert's fan base. Approaching and occasionally exceeding the skill of his productions for Around the House and Bodily Functions, they illustrate Herbert moving forward to embrace a sound that's just as fractured and freewheeling as before, but colder and more alien. (If he was the postmodern Giorgio Moroder before, Goodbye Swingtime makes him sound like the 21st century Kurt Weill.) Regular vocalist Dani Siciliano appears on several tracks, and is magical as usual. Sandwiched between her best features ("Chromoshop" and "Misprints") is the instrumental highlight of the record, "The Battle," an ultramodern Kenton-style arrangement shot through with numerous delightful tangents; Wraight and the band appear to enjoy the challenge of approximating Herbert's cut-up production style. Several of Britain's finest swing musicians -- Gordon Campbell, Graham Russell, Nigel Hitchcock -- are in the band, and for those with an interest in and an understanding of Herbert's methodology, Goodbye Swingtime was written according to the rules of PCCOMM. Also, for each track Herbert details the various samples used and their significance, most involving political commentary; luckily enough, the album is entertaining enough on its own.

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