One Pig – Matthew Herbert traces it from farm to our fork

Last week I was at One Pig, a aural trace of a pigs life from the comforts of the farm to my fork. The very same day I had just returned from Wales, where we celebrated by slicing up our first samples of our hams. Timely?

I have been a fan of Herbert for at least 10 years when a friend of mine invited me to a gig in an upstairs venue in Melbourne. I remember some use of a toaster, and a sample of a kettle. I hadn’t seen him for years, but then I saw that he was to perform his new album One Pig, with a dinner prepared by the guys from Shaklewell Nights and Rosie Sykes. I was nervous that after the dinner my apetite would be suppressed – my dinner partner was fearful I was going to turn her vegetarian – all unfounded.

The performance was set-up like a barn dance. The hay barrels were actually instruments, and the pen was linked to electronic pig samples that were played like a loose harp. The whole thing was added drama by the white lab coats the musicians wore, and specifically the months on Yann Seznec’s coat, who played the pen, which counted down the pigs months to live.

Having spent the last year doing my own research on pigs – involving the visiting of beautiful farms at parts, and then also the more gruesome abattoirs, this event seemed more personal. The six month life span of a pig previously had been discussed as a factual farm term that we had used to reference weight, and also the cost impact for the farmer. Suddenly now seen from the perspective of the pig, 6 months which equates to around 5% of it’s potential life span, becames apparent.

The conversation that preempted the performance dallied with some of these pretty big issues revolving commercial food production. This album approaches this topic which so often can be interpreted as sanctimonious at best in a new and refreshing way. It is hard to find an answer to this ever growing issue while you are about to stuff your face full of pork, but I am glad that the conversation was being had.

Unlike many of the great albums of the year, I don’t think I will hear the One Pig album again with intent, although I was in a cafe yesterday and the music they played there was very similar. Perhaps it wasn’t so obscure that you can’t listen to it while drinking latte’s. One thing this event did do was lead me to  the purchase of Eating Animals, by Jonathan Saffran Foer. Up to now I had tried to avoid this book in the fear that I too would be changed for life. But going into a world of meat production has made me face the true realities of the food chain and part of eat is surmised brilliantly by Foer. I would recommend anyone who eats meat to read this book, but as I am sure you know already, it isn’t all beautiful.

More reviews of it here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/worldfolkandjazz/8962176/One-Pig-Cafe-Oto-review.html

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/music/review-24022174-matthew-herbert-one-pig-dead-and-alive-cafe-oto—review.do

http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/15930-matthew-herbert-one-pig/

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