Sing it back

Aug 1, 2001 at 12:00 am

From its whispered beginnings in “You’re Unknown to Me,” Bodily Functions continues Matthew Herbert’s multigenre electronic experiments by plotting lyrical intensity with musical freedom in an attempt at teasing out the threads of love in the modern world. Shifting from vocalist Dani Siciliano’s strong but soft vocal lifts and lilts to the sampled rhythmic cornucopias of Herbert’s grab bag, he weaves together a record of brushlike lightness, jazz-standard flair and dance-club power. For Siciliano’s vocals, think Siouxie Sioux meets Blossom Dearie. And the grab bag includes “percussion sounds taken from the knuckles, hair, skin, teeth and bones.”

Within these incredible environments, Bodily Function’s themes of love, missed love and changed love resound. Personified and multiplied both by Siciliano, and (on the heartbreaking “You Saw It All”) Herbert himself, characters breathe their stories, telling of ghosts in their rooms and conflicted feelings in their hearts, melting into the platinum funky beats of Herbert’s mix.

What makes this especially powerful and refreshing is Herbert’s refusal to lie about electronica’s production of our own feelings, its cut-up effects and displacements, which mirror and absolve our standards of beauty and loss. From the out-of-body confessions of “Suddenly” (“This world is not like mine/this future’s far behind”), to the loss and regret of “I Miss You,” songs brush up against the antinomic crises which lie at the heart of our desires.

In the closer, “The Audience,” the crisis as well as the manifesto of this modern love taps into Herbert’s world-wind of music. Rhodes piano, sampled effects and bouncing-ball house declare with Dani’s vocals that, “We are separate. We are one, the division has begun/You are my future. I am your past. Even music will not last.” Both the end of music and its beginning, Bodily Functions claims 2001 album of the year already.

E-mail Carleton S. Gholz at [email protected].