Review Summary: Let’s get straight to the point. This is music made of the pig, by the pig, for the pigs. As a documentary of gastronomic practices in the Western world, it is critical listening for those of you who eat. Significantly, it’s also really fucking good.
Criticisms that One Pig
isn’t ‘music’ per se are inevitable. Although the album is at its strongest when myriad incongruous sounds merge together into disturbingly beautiful songs, the weight of the individual samples are what ultimately enable the construction of such a haunting and powerful aural edifice; it is precisely through the artistic combination of dichotomous sounds that a collection of seemingly banal farm yard noises are turned into a unforgettable elegy for a living, breathing creature. Samples are warped in every possible way; tractors and footsteps become pounding percussion, dripping blood and slashing knives morph into spine tingling melodies. At times it's all too easy to forget that the hideous yet gorgeous cacaphony emanating from your speakers is forged from live recordings rather than programmed sounds. Penultimate track August
is perhaps the greatest testament to the skill of the composer; a soaring melody played on whining synths that wouldn’t feel out of place on a particularly dark and melancholy Zomby track. The brooding music becomes even more pertinent when one realizes that the melody is being played on an instrument filled with the blood of the aforementioned pig whilst the insistent beat hovering in the background like a spectre is being tapped out on a drum made of its own skin. The cumulative effect is so poignant as to be almost unbearable.
One is faced with the realization that such emotive music is, oddly enough, a silent and objective witness; in the absence of language morality as such cannot exist and thus it is left to the listener to pass judgement. If Herbert has something to say, he leaves it to the sounds he has recorded rather than attempting to force a preachy spoken moral down our throats along with a greasy bacon sandwich. In light of this, those tempted to treat this scornfully as yet another artistic attempt to highlight the evils of eating meat will find no leg to stand on here; One Pig
is simply the life story of an anonymous farmyard beast told through music by a particularly talented and meticulous artist. Indubitably, the despairing squeals of a crippled piglet will invoke empathy, but if anything this only furthers what Herbert states to be the actual aim of the album; the revelation of the huge disconnect between what we do and the consequences of our actions. This album is undoubtedly the closest most people will ever come to their food, and as such it gains critical significance as a work of art documenting the stark and somewhat grim reality of the modern food industry.
Additionally and critically, the composition and instrumentation are of sufficient quality to be worthy of merit in their own right; Herbert has crafted a powerful and often mesmerizing masterpiece that shudders, groans and lurches along in doleful and measured abandon, an absurd funeral march gone completely off the rails. Regardless of the disturbing concept behind it, One Pig
is a heart wrenching and brilliant piece of avant garde music. The fact that a living creature literally put its heart into the creative process simply makes it all the more enthralling. What more could you possibly ask of a work of art?
So that’ll do pig. That’ll do.