In 2011, photographer Sebastian Mayer was embedded on the front lines in Libya just as the Arab Spring was beginning its downward ascent. He had been in Afghanistan as a frontline war photographer a year before, and found that his photographs, while terrifying to look at, lacked the other component that made being in combat so visceral and encompassing: sound. Once in Libya, he rigged a Samson H4 recorder and hung the microphone out of his jacket. Meyer was in Ras Lanuff one day when he came within yards of a bomb dropped from a pro-Gaddafi warplane, and captured the terrifying sound on tape. While it's an hair-raising document all on its own, Matthew Herbert, no stranger to playing with unusual sounds himself, decided to use the 10-second recording of the bomb whistling through the air and going off as the sole sound source for his new record, The End of Silence.
The brief clip, emailed to Herbert in 2011, was then stripped, mined, and explored. As Herbert notes in the press release, "I want to freeze history, press pause, wander around inside the sound. [I'm] trying to understand its component parts, wondering why it was so scary when I had never actually heard any bomb firsthand." The recording was then tinkered with and improvised with over the course of three days in the summer of 2012; Herbert's all-electronic band—Yann Seznec, Tom Skinner, and Sam Beste, along with Herbert himself (pictured above)—programmed, sequenced, and deconstructed the recording in a barn outside of Hay-on-Wye, Wales. In addition, Herbert also set up so-called "witness mics," capturing birdsong, wind, and various animal sounds—like a dog barking—to counter the relentless drone that comes from slowing an explosion to a snail's pace. The End of Silence features three lengthy parts as part of a longer suite. Below, "Part One" is available to stream before the record is released on June 24 via Herbert's own Accidental imprint.