Matthew Herbert Spectrum / Fonderie Darling, Montreal QC — February 25 & 26, 2005

After wowing MUTEKers a few years back with his TV-smashing, McDonalds-crushing anti-globalisation shtick as Radio Boy, Matthew Herbert returned as himself to serve up a Plat du Jour. The master sampler had previously made apolitical music from bodily functions and household noises but this project took that found sound approach to tackle the problems of modern food production. After being taste-tested in London, Paris and Istanbul, Plat's North American debut saw Herbert backed by a Swedish-looking chef, a drummer using a kit built from supermarket products and a trio of jazz musicians triggering live samples. The apron-wearing bandleader, behind banks of knobs and dials, then built beats on the fly out of his amassed sound sources, including dying chickens, sewer systems and chewed pickles. Looking equal parts short-order cook and mad scientist, Herbert's performance contrasted wonderful odours (onions, omelettes, chocolate, toffee) with near-nauseating images of chicken farms, processing plants and rotting apples — audience members even received an apple each, which was simultaneously crunched and sampled for use in a subsequent song. But while the smells were successfully spread via powerful fans and passed around inside balloons, there was no overhead camera to let us see what the chef was up to and the kitchen sounds were never incorporated into the music. Herbert also dropped a pre-recorded R&B vocal track (presumably of his wife, Dani Siciliano) mocking Beyoncé for doing Pepsi ads during the song "Celebrity Poison (Where Greed Sells Greed)" but it seemed out of place in the otherwise instrumental set. While Herbert's thoughts on the politics of food industrialisation can be better sussed out on his website — or in the liner notes to the upcoming Plat du Jour album — the beauty of Herbert's experimental antics is that even if you strip away the visuals and motivating thesis, the music is always present for more than mere point-making. But if this sit-down show was too high-concept, Herbert got populist the next night as the headlining DJ for Nuit Elektronik, sneaking in Steve Miller's "Abracadabra" amongst the techno while paving the way for Perlon's Sammy D and hometown hero Akufen, who spun records well past breakfast time.