- Song: "Breathe"
- Artist: Matthew Herbert Big Band
- CD: There Is Me and There Is You
- Genre: Big Band
courtesy of the artist
In "Breathe," Matthew Herbert reminds listeners to exhale, while maintaining a tone that's both cautionary and celebratory.
From workplace politics to personal relationships to stock-market volatility, it's easy to live under a cloud of fear, anxiety, anger and sadness. In his glorious "Breathe," Matthew Herbert reminds listeners to exhale, while maintaining a tone that's both cautionary and celebratory.
Herbert's knack for blurring the lines between the political and personal has always served him well. In "Breathe," he finds an ideal balance, as he ties consumerism to environmental concerns before alluding to how it divides and potentially destroys us.
The joy in "Breathe" comes not so much from Herbert's brainy verses or his curiously specific samples, which include the Disney orchestra from A Bug's Life, 100 supermarket plastic bags and noises recorded at a landfill site. Instead, it arrives by way of execution. Herbert is known mostly in the electronica world, but here, he reconvenes his jazz big band, first heard on 2003's Goodbye Swingtime. But even amid this song's swooning orchestration — brass, piano, woodwinds and drums — hints of electronic ingenuity creep in from the start, as he devises an ominous setting that sounds like people breathing heavily, as if stuck in some spacecraft vacuum.
Eventually, the song becomes more earthbound, as the atmospherics give way to mid-tempo swing and haunting background vocals. Eska Mtungwazi, an amazing singer with the quirkiness of Bjork and the gale-force power of Chaka Khan, provides much of the emotional gravity as she effectively alternates between whispers and screams. After addressing myriad societal divisions, she puts it all in perspective, adding, "Breathe a little more / Buy a little less."
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