In a moment of synchronicity unknown for this blog we scheduled this post on the day Matthew Herbert, aka Wishmountain, gets announced as creative director of the revived BBC Radiophonic Workshop. There’s a first for us.
Herbert, if you don’t know, is of One Pig infamy that sampled and recorded the life cycle – birth to death to plate – of a porker. This time round he has taken his sound devices to the stuffed shelves and racks of the supermarket and all the sundry delights they offer, and delivers a lesson in found-sounds as dissected domestication.
Herbert transforms a series of mundane objects of our daily consumption into a brilliant rhythmic techno throb. Part of the pleasure here lies in inquiring into how, at any given moment, the bits and blobs of sound match or bare similarity to their source. With an eye on under rather over-processing the sounds, so that the remnants of hiss from the capturing process remain, you’re made to guess at how has a slice of bread, a piece of bog-roll, a crisp or a cube of chocolate been manipulated to become a sound or a beat.
Of course, you have the titles of the tracks to guide you, but that doesn’t exhaust the detective work you can do as a listener, if you’re so inclined. And this is not a simple artful exercise is making the ordinary into the extraordinary; the efforts at bricolage here are ambiguous. So is this an attempt to enliven the banal stuff of our lives as wondrous? Or is this dissent at mass consumption, the homogenising forces of consumer lifestyles and their attendant pleasures and pitfalls? Or, again, is it a joyous and knowing celebration of branding that seeks to undermine the middle class fascination with the artisan and the heritage?
Left open for your response, whatever the politics of Tesco it sounds amazing: kid’s drinks are made to hum like hyperactive pan pipes (‘Fruit Shoot’); branded coffee is bubbled into a funk (‘Nescafé’); energy drinks are detuned and pulsated (‘Lucozade’); bread and its wrapping is made to sigh, gyrate and zap in a manner that lays bare its industrial production (‘Kingsmill Hovis and Warburton’); and the shopping list goes on…
You need to buy this album if, as I suspect, this is a deconstruction of the smug ubiquity of corporatism. After all in the fight against such behemoths every little helps.