Skye & Matthew Herbert @ Irving Plaza

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006 | All Things, Music

I had tickets to a concert tonight, but on the way, I stopped in for the Friends of the High Line “Dinner, Drinks and Design Presentations” at Pier 63 Maritime. The pier is, in fact, a moored Lackawanna Railroad Barge; it was purchased in 1997 to be the permanent home for the historic lightship Frying Pan. Judging from the crowd assembled in the shadow of Chelsea Piers, the pier is the place to be these summer nights: lively chatter filled the air, intermingling with the smoke off the grill from the Tiki Hut Bar & Café. I wandered among the display panels and picked up some printed materials about the planned High Line promenade, but unfortunately, this night I had to leave before the design presentations.

High Line Design

High Line Panels

The pier offers historic maritime tours on weekend afternoons in July and August; I may have to check into that for this Sunday, the season’s last.

Pier 63 Statue

We arrived at Irving Plaza well in time for the opening act by Skye (Edwards), former voice for trip-hop band Morcheeba (whom I’ve described as Portishead-lite.) “Skye” is an acronym of her given name: Shirley Klarisse Yonavive Edwards. Her first solo album, Mind How You Go, hit stores yesterday, August 22.

Skye’s airy, beguiling vocals were an easy match for her chill mix of soul-inflected story-telling tunes — including one she penned about buying the dress she was wearing that night, while on tour with Morcheeba in New Orleans eight years ago. We were surrounded on all sides by couples pressed closely together and swaying dreamily to Skye’s music… but the most enthusiastic responses were reserved for Morcheeba’s “The Sea” (off 1998’s Big Calm album) and an acoustic cover of Gorillaz’ “Feel Good Inc.



Up next: Matthew Herbert, the influential and critically acclaimed British instrumental electronic artist, remixer (most recently Radiohead and Jamie Lidell), producer and collaborator (for artists as varied as Björk, R.E.M., Perry Farrell, Serge Gainsbourg and Yoko Ono.) Herbert, a classically trained pianist, uses digital samples and original orchestral and “organic” (i.e., noises, not instruments) recordings to construct his albums. On this night, he riffed off of live created samples of an aluminum can crumpling, and the audience singing a middle-C in unison. Really cool! The orchestrations on his latest album Scale (released in May) include keyboard, strings, horns… drums recorded underwater and in a hot-air balloon, coffins closing from the inside, a dozen different types of cars, recorded phone messages, jet fighter planes and a parrot. You get the idea. Somehow these disparate sounds, overlaid with smooth R&B vocals, melded together to oddly danceable, almost poppy effect that defied easy categorization. For this tour, Herbert had live musicians accompanying him; each had at least one opportunity to show off his dazzling virtuosity: on vocals, guitar, keyboard, saxophone and trumpet.

Check out four of the tracks from Scale here.

Matthew Herbert

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August 28, 2006

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