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Eleven years after its release, (Matthew) Herbert’s Bodily Functions still has the power to turn heads. The problem is only a select number of heads seem to remember it, which is at least one good reason for this two disc re-issue to bring it out from under the radar.
Herbert’s groundbreaking, jazz-tinged house music rightly earned him a place in many decade-end lists, and still sounds timeless today - any of the 14 tracks here could pass as a release from 2012’s electronic innovators. Perhaps as proof Herbert’s roped in a few of them to rework his material on an equally impressive bonus disc.
Dismissed by some for its jazz elements, Bodily Functions is gloomy and intricate, but capable of soaring highs that cross from the experimental electronic zone to the dance floor with ease. Radio favourite ‘It’s Only’ - which sounds forward thinking now, never mind in 2001 - balances 8-bit drums, subtle flutes and washes of synths with a 4/4 house beat. On the surface it’s the type of thing Brian from Spaced might listen to, but it becomes less pretentious and more enjoyable very quickly, building to an air-punching chorus. ‘You’re Unknown To Me’ features the coffee table voice of Herbert’s ex-wife Dani Siciliano, setting out terms for a reconciliation over husky piano chords (”I know things couldn’t be the same/And I know that you wouldn’t have it any other way”). The LP keeps on juggling pulsing house beats with warm, listenable jazz, throwing in surprises like ‘Foreign Bodies’, a rigid R&B tune spiced with what’s claimed to be recordings of running blood.
To prove he’s not the only one who can tinker with house music Herbert’s choice of guest producers on the second disc almost match the ingenuity he showed on the original. Taking his cue from ‘Back to the Start’, an unreleased original made from snail shells and gentle, minimal dance pads, Dave Aju prepares a thee-note synth loop backed with a click track for his take on ‘Foreign Bodies’. DJ Koze goes on to balance the jazz and house elements with accountant precision by adding glockenspiel, flute, vocal samples and kick drums to ‘You Saw It All’, while the ‘Matmos Shifted My Tongue’ version of ‘The Audience’ plays with variable-speed pop funk like a chewed up Salt-N-Pepa tape. Though each artist’s technique varies from the last, it shows just how many people the original album touched, and with the exception of the queasy/fidgety Nobukazu Takemura mix of ‘Addiction’, make the bonus disc nearly as essential as the first.
Tellingly, Herbert chose not to remaster the original tracks on Bodily Functions: what you get here is what got people’s attention back in 2001. With the cult attention the album received it would have been easy for Herbert to do a Kevin Shields and squeeze three remasters out of his original release, but instead he’s kept it as the time capsule it should be - one which now has a colourful, more cartoony new twin. A worthwhile investment even for fans who consider the original LP sacrosanct, Bodily Functions and its bonus disc show that electronic music is never as disposable as you think.