It can sometimes be difficult to recognize pure technical skill in abstract or conceptual work. A lot of people hear avant-electronic music (or see modern art) and assume the artist simply can’t do reality, that they have to make discordant work simply by nature of their own deficiencies. Though Herbert’s recent successes are hardly devoid of pop, they are heady experiments, journeys many feel stray too far from the given objective of dance music to make people dance. However, like those modern masters that strayed from impressionism into cubism into abstraction, Herbert has a purist side, too, and while I will refrain from comparing the producer to Picasso, it bolsters his credibility to revisit 100 Lbs., his first record under his own name, ten years later.
The reason, quite simply, is that this is not just house music, but straight-ahead, booty-shaking, unadulterated house music. The opening few tracks, “Rude,” “Desire” and “Thinking of You,” all follow the rules by layering a steady beat under slightly shifting samples and flourishes. Fortunately, they are all faultless and could sit next to the best house of the ’90s, or the ’00s for that matter, on any deejay’s mix. The fourth track, “Oo Licky,” doesn’t change the mood, but it stands out for its use of a high-profile sample, the bossa classic “Girl From Ipanema.” The second half of the album gets a little darker but never strays from the basic house template. The bonus disc continues the trend even more by rubbing out the flashy stabs of the full-length into misty smears of B-sides and unreleased tracks.
Herbert has described 100 Lbs. as naive, but don’t hold that against him. Within the context of his oeuvre, it can certainly be viewed that way. But as a house record, this debut easily stands the test of time, thanks in part to its wide-eyed simplicity. Though he would certainly make better and more ambitious records in his career, 100 Lbs. is a necessary step in his catalog, and a crucial look into the house-framed evolution of an artistic mind.