Listening to 'goodbye swingtime' is like reading a comic book. You can choose the intensity of your reading/listening experience. Personally, Herbert's follow up to 'bodily functions' (2001), has provided me with more satisfaction after a deep analysis of the artist, the composition and its message.
Jazz meets electronic music in a studio. What makes this album very original is how it was devised. The idea stems from recording a live performance of this 16 member jazz band at the Montreux Jazz festival. Herbert then deconstructed and reconstructed the pieces in an electronic environment. The result is the addition of curious sounds to a traditional jazz piece while following the rule of PCCOM, a contemporary composition rule Herbert imposed on himself.
'Goodbye swingtime' expressions travel beyond its musicality to reach some strong political intentions. As Herbert mentions in his web biography, "the conceptual backbone of the album is political literature". As such, he uses sounds for explicitly political purposes. My favorite example is the addition of sounds from turning pages of a very specific book: Rogue States by Noam Chomsky.
The first part of the album is strongly jazz oriented. The electronic influence is more present in the second half of the album. Herbert collaborated with several artists. To name a few, Everything's Changed features lyrics by Jamie Lidell, the British electronica/IDM producer. Arto Lyndsay also contributed to the album and you can hear him on Fiction.
The more ambient/downtempo feel of The Three W's appeals to me a lot. Mara Carlyle (Plaid), guest vocalist, adds a dreamy/emotional touch that contrasts nicely with the seriousness of the hidden political message. One could imagine the desperate cry of a young child calling for help under a military dictatorship environment.
Mouse on Mars assisted in the processing of The Battle although the influence is very discreet. The Many And The Few start with the sound of local phonebooks being dropped on floors by people around the world. The theme of political/musical struggle between harmony and dissonance is very visible in this protest song.
The CD booklet, made out of landscape cut outs, is a work of art in itself. A visit to Herbert's web site is also worthwhile. Check out his recommended reading list.
Whether you are looking to listen to 'goodbye swingtime' for its lazy Sunday morning jazzy feel or for its contemporary sophistication through its construction, sound and message, one cannot understate the genius of Matthew Herbert. Matthew Herbert has clearly redefined what a big band is and means.