Silence. A plane approaches from a distance, a murmur becoming steadily more recognisable. A whistle; and then… It is as if the world has ended. Around half way through the first of the three part suite recorded in a Hay-on-Wye barn in June last year, the single sound source Matthew Herbert and his band used in the making of The End of Silence reveals itself. It is a bomb, both more deadly and terrifying than anything you can prepare yourself for. You can imagine running, madly, across the desert streets of Tripoli on hearing that fateful whistle, only to have Col. Gaddafi’s mad will and a ton of heavy metal crashing down from 1,00o feet above you.
The End of Silence is possibly Herbert’s most dramatic and controversial work to date, which is some achievement coming off the back of his ‘One’ trilogy of albums (highlights include an album made entirely from the sounds of a single pig from birth to slaughter) and works such as Tesco and 00’s house classic Bodily Functions, which utilise sounds predominately from places the titles tend to give away. It is really quite frightening though to consider the implications of the small ten-second or so sample given to Herbert by photographer Sebastian Meyer during the height of the Lybian conflict in March 2011; and then used to form every single note on the record. This is music made from death. This is music made from destruction, from the twisted politics and state-sponsored brutality of a crackpot dictator once propped up by our own governments.
Herbert does not take his sampling lightly, and thus manages to construct a complex, varied instrumental protest record with this snippet of warfare. ‘Part 1’ is unrelentingly frightening, with huge swathes of emptiness and discordant colourings of silence broken up by intense shrieks that are undoubtedly the Libyan bomb itself. The tension is maintained throughout the track’s 24 minutes, leaving the listener with perhaps the smallest idea of the constant, insistent terror of living in a warzone. There really is no indication of when the bombs are going to fall either – no air raid siren, just that brief, almost playful whistle. I challenge anyone not to jump out of their skin at least once whilst listening.
‘Part 2’ switches tack a little bit, with Herbert’s dancier leanings (he is perhaps most well known as Bjork’s favourite remixer) appearing as a small respite. The three other members of the band are, along with Herbert, given full freedom to play with their specially constructed sampler instruments to make musical beats and textures and the resulting sound is signature Herbert – off-kilter swinging drum & bass, with the persistent threat of carnage close by. This is not just an art or a protest record, rather a terrifying ghost story based on real life and real people; people who like to laugh and dance in the face of adversity. ‘Part 3‘ blends the two previous elements together to close the triptych in equally destructive fashion, harsh synths and metallic percussion increasing in volume and density as the track progresses until only the bomb itself is left. And then, Silence. Nothing remains. The world has ended.