Matthew Herbert: 'One Pig'

Matthew Herbert

One Pig (Accidental Records)

For his latest project, British electronic composer/conceptualist Matthew Herbert recorded the sounds of a single pig over the course of its lifetime—and beyond—from birth to butchering. (British officials did not allow him to record the pig’s slaughter.) Adding those sounds to synth soundscapes and industrial dance music could seem silly, but, to Herbert’s credit, he has created a serious piece of music here.

One Pig drifts from chaos to balearic bliss and triumphant dance-floor anthems; Herbert refuses to reduce his subject to a political statement (PETA has protested the album), and instead tries to capture the full range of the pig’s emotional life. Much of the album is necessarily dark—the industrial clamor of “November” and “December” is accompanied by gruesome howls, and Herbert samples butcher’s utensils on the grinding, paranoid techno of “February.” Worst of all is the end of “August 2011”—the pulsing, pounding, dubby disco beat dissolves into the sounds of people chewing, presumably on parts of the subject pig. Like the rest of One Pig, it is creepy, powerful, and unsettling, loaded with satire, social criticism, and pathos, and once you get it you might never listen to it again.

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