Doctor Rockit
The unnecessary history of doctor rockit


hile Matthew Herbert has moved on to different avenues/monikers of expression, the Doctor Rockit pseudonym has been the basis for some of the most direct and resolutely fresh ideas in his pursuit of electro-concrete. The unnecessary history of doctor rockit compilation spans the past seven years of Herbert’s career under that moniker, revealing gems that have previously have only been available on vinyl. And while Herbert himself has chosen to call it an ‘unnecessary history’ (and one that should also be spelled in lowercase), it’s a valuable look into the out-of-print releases off the now-defunct label Clear.

While Doctor Rockit might be a lesser-known alias of Herbert’s, his goals appear to be the same. From the early expansive clicks and clunks of “Camera and Rocks,” to last year’s orchestrated “Veselka’s Diner,” every song carries a certain sensibility that feels borne of recording—an interest in electronic music beyond Roland 909s.

The push toward recording instead of sampling, later explicated in Herbert’s PCCOM manifesto, has given tracks a relevance not often found within the ever-changing (and ever-defined) sound of electronic-based music. Ignoring electronic instrumentation gives this selection of Doctor Rockit songs a distinct sonic individuality. With the ghost-like hum embedded into “Nicotine” and wispy melody of “The S The E The 2 And The 3” as starting points, each song collages into intriguing sonic material, albeit sometimes straightforward structural compositions. This refocus into sonic experimentation also gives the unnecessary history of doctor rockit spontaneity, often beautifully juxtaposing sound environments found in a backward bass, a jogging step and a collection of water drops on “Runner on Hastings Beach.”

Even with the experiments of sound, the bare songs “I Wish I Was” and “Hymnformation” carry an idiosyncratic stamp, each being either karaoke kitsch, deceivingly amateur or painfully sincere. Surprisingly, the experience is touching, as the intentions are left somewhat ambiguous. But as both vague and direct, “Hymnformation” could be the more strangely evocative. Like a lost Bruce Haack song, the song’s singer (a tweaked Herbert) begins with a banal cyborg joke (“I require more information / Don’t want to end up uninformed”) and expands to a choral arrangement of political action. The song follows through with a blank sincerity from bedroom isolation into grandiose cathedral flourishes.

Foreshadowing Herbert’s plans with the Doctor Rockit moniker, the unnecessary history... ends with the apple barrage of “Granny Delicious,” found on Doctor Rockit’s first LP. For his upcoming album, he recorded the sounds of 350 people biting into an apple at Sonar in Barcelona. His decision to end the Doctor Rockit project here, then, might be less finality to the sound, but instead a coalescing of musical identities.

Reviewed by: Nate De Young

Reviewed on: 2004-07-23

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