06 10

Matthew Herbert The Shakes Caroline International


Matthew Herbert’s inclination to address dance music from a classical yet leftfield school of thought is as prevalent as ever on The Shakes. In many ways, the album continues from where 2001’s Bodily Functions LP left off, expanding on his playful mixture of jazz-informed house and pop- infused ballads. However, with vocalists taking centre stage, the album carves a theatrical edge into Herbert’s house lineage, creating a narrative of resistance and strife in today’s precarious world. The result is an album that is at points baffling, and, at rare moments, intensely emotionally effective.

With its eccentric orchestration and high-energy choruses, some parts of The Shakes are more Broadway than Bodily Functions. Battle lends a dramatic opening, with eerie synths that induce a foreboding sense of unease, while Ade Omotayo’s soulful vocals bellow like a defiant war cry beckon- ing a world of struggle. Strong and Smart dabble slightly over that line of cheesiness, with their hyper-animated rhythms jolting you with positivity. Herbert’s sound begins to lament at this point, revealing an undeniable sense of vulnerability behind the overtly positive anthems prior. Delicate moments like Know, Warm and Silence sit irresistibly between unyielding displays of emotion. Ending on Peak, the album’s impassioned climax, its surging 10-minute ride marries a subtly garage tinged aesthetic with gospel organs and impassioned vocals, telling us to “rise to unknown places, love in symmetry.”

This is a brave and uncompromising record, clearly one of purgative release for Herbert. A bold expression of passion, The Shakes endeavours to connect to real, human emotion. Sometimes it hits, and sometimes it falls just short of the mark. Though the sense of drama on display here borders on corny, under Herbert’s charismatic spell, it’s somehow all redeeming.