Matthew Herbert, the eccentric composer, house producer, and jazz band leader, has made an album using instruments crafted from a horse skeleton. The Horse features a swath of UK jazz greats old and new—including Shabaka Hutchins, Evan Parker, Polar Bear’s Seb Rochford, and Kokoroko’s Edward Wakili-Hick—as well as the likes of Wayne Shorter collaborator Danilo Pérez and the London Contemporary Orchestra. (The guests mostly play non-horse instruments.) Below, listen to a single, “The Horse Has a Voice,” which features Theon Cross. The album is out May 26 via Modern Recordings/BMG.
Instruments include horse-skin drums, flutes made from the thigh bones, bows crafted from the ribs and hair, gut string stretched over the pelvis, and a shaker created by mixing cement with polo horse semen. The album also features reverb recorded beside ancient cave paintings of horses in northern Spain and field recordings from the Epsom racecourse, where the suffragette Emily Davison was trampled by King George V’s racehorse in 1913. Herbert also gathered more than 6900 horse sounds from the internet, according to the press release. The instrument makers include Sam Underwood, Graham Dunning, Henry Dagg and Lee Patterson.
Last year, Herbert teamed up with Barbara Panther to release an album as Muramuke; he put out a house album (not to be confused with a horse album) the year before that, and a Brexit-themed big band LP in 2019. Fans will recall his last full-length foray into macabre animal life: 2011’s one pig.
Read about Herbert’s early explorations of dance music and found sound in Pitchfork’s rundown of “The 30 Best House Tracks of the ’90s.”