(CD - Accidental #AC 165CD)

Review by Paul Simpson

Musca is Matthew Herbert's return to the "domestic house" sound of his two most highly praised works, Around the House and Bodily Functions. True to his methods, he bases his tracks on sounds recorded at his farm, which he manipulates and transforms into musical instruments. There are some obvious untreated sounds present, like birds chirping and water dripping, but much of the time it's nearly impossible to tell where the sounds were sourced from. To the ears, it registers as music rather than audio collage. Nearly all of the songs feature vocals, all by singers Herbert hadn't previously worked with and hasn't met in person, and there are also several guest musicians, yet all of Herbert's collaborators recorded their parts in isolation. This adds up to an album that's both intimate and communal, composed of small sounds and textures but expressing bigger feelings, particularly through the guest vocalists. "Fantasy" is easily the album's most memorable tune, cleverly snaking flutes and manipulated vocal hooks around Verushka's passionate, yearning lyrics. Allie Armstrong's singing is transformed into a haunting choir during the dreamlike "Might as Well Be Magical," and her voice curiously lingers at the end of the hypnotic "The Impossible." "Tell Me a Secret" is carried by clacking, plate-like percussion, then reaches its peak with Siân Roseanna's spirited "I can feel the sun on me" chant. While the album has some sleepier tracks that somewhat dull the momentum, "Be Young" is not one of them, as it constructs tricky melodies and intricate breakbeats around Daisy Godfrey's sophisticated vocals. The album ends with the classy standout "Gold Dust," a mixture of soulful house and brassy big-band jazz, with horns erupting around Bianca Rose's enthralling vocals.

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