Radio Boy 

The Mechanics of Destruction

What is the sound of one corporate culture falling? Matthew Herbert is on the warpath to find out -- and make it happen. Since 1995, the acclaimed left-field dance producer (who's released numerous records under the guises of Herbert, Doctor Rockit, and Wishmountain) has closed the gap between groove culture and daily life by building his house, electro, and mutant jazz tunes with digitally manipulated sounds of everyday objects. His live appearances have found him tearing potato chip bags, clinking bottles, and crushing soda cans into compelling rhythmscapes. Now, under the guise of Radio Boy, Herbert comments on multinational companies and their wasteful behavior by thrashing their products into beats.

The results are refreshing and provocative. The album's fifteen percussion-centered house-tempo tunes don't serve up any dance music clichés beyond hypnotic rhythms, and the atmosphere of each is positively kinetic. Looking at the credited "sole sound sources" brings up several questions: How the hell did Herbert get all that funk out of the sound of a straw being plunged into the lid of a McDonald's soft drink cup? And can we really discern that he made music with "one caramel latte and one Frappuccino" from Starbucks? But does it really matter if the point's made via the producer's own lucid liner notes, and if the music makes you cut loose? Especially on "The Whisper of Friction," made from field recordings from May Day worker protests in Europe. Though he's obviously not the first to expand on found sound or sampling, Herbert's explorations are qualitatively unique. Mechanics' tech-noise neither clangs with the postwar metallic scrapings of industrial pioneers like Einstürzende Neubauten nor guffaws with the mediated irreverence of Negativland. Instead, it sensually squishes with the "soft" rips and pours of late-century convenience culture, which -- in conjunction with its lucid liner notes -- opens intimate and vulnerable spots in our conscience. Of course, like any piece of media that denounces corporations, Mechanics evokes those nagging questions of hypocrisy -- after all, at least a few monoliths are inevitably involved in its production, manufacture, and distribution. But to be fair, Herbert has put his politics where his wallet is: Mechanics will reportedly retail for two dollars in stores. Viva!

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