Matthew Herbert’s Plat du Jour is a fiercely political statement shrouded in bubbly pop-tronica. Criminally underrated in the United States, Herbert has released Plat du Jour to little fanfare and a cold shoulder, which is undeserved, despite that this is a mild disappointment in his impressive catalogue. The album’s ambitions are admirable, and the work is accomplished, but it would be difficult to know what his intentions are without reading the (fascinating) documentation, and the music, therefore, falls a little short of its intentions.
With titles such as “The Truncated Life of a Modern Industrialized Chicken” and “An Empire of Coffee,” it’s not hard to see where Herbert is coming from. His commentary in both the liner notes and on the record’s Web site is passionate and illuminating about how people around the world get their food, and it’s a must-read if you want to really enjoy the record. The music itself has the trademark weird sound that Herbert has used before, incorporating everything from chicken garbles to people biting apples. Almost everything on the record is associated with food or food production, but it all comes together into a typical IDM sound: think Matmos’s A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure, which used surgery sounds to similar effect.
This all comes together as best as it can into a political statement, but without words it’s always difficult to interpret the music in such a way. (When was the last time you listened to Godspeed You! Black Emperor and had a political epiphany?) It’s interesting to combine music with documentation, but the statement becomes somewhat muddled when taking the music alone.
Plat du Jour is never dull, and if you went your whole life not knowing what it was about you could enjoy it on a basic scale. But as a project, the record is somewhat of a disappointment, if only because Herbert’s attempt is so needed in this world where we are too quick to put whatever is cheapest and quickest into our bodies.
‘Plat du Jour’ Web site: http://www.platdujour.co.uk/