I learned before approaching this recording that it had stirred the fury of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for, in their view, exploiting the suffering of pigs raised for slaughter. Full disclosure: I am a vegetarian and haven't eaten a pig in well over a year, so I had some trepidation on approaching this album. Without being caught up in the politics between the artist and his critics, I decided to hear for myself what this album could mean to me.
Oddly, I found myself rather taken in by how the subject animal was presented. One thing that struck me right away while listening to this album was the variety of vocalizations a pig can emit. There are plenty of "oinks" and "grunts" to be heard, but revelatory was some of what I can only describe as "roars" (almost like a jungle beast). Stranger still was hearing the sounds piglets produce, precious and alien at the same time. These pig noises, in concert with field recordings sonically manipulated by the artist, makes for a record that is in equal parts humorous and horrifying. The music elements develop organically, not forced along by unnecessary drum machine beats. This is an electronic album, yes, but it is not "techno" music.
The ultimate fate of our four-legged friend is captured in sound not at the slaughter process itself (apparently Herbert was not allowed to record the killing of his subject), but at the dinner table where saw labors upon bone and humans chew open-mouthed on the animal's corpse. The most eerie section occurs at the album's coda, a lullaby of sorts dedicated to the next generation of pigs that will continue the endless cycle of sustenance through death.
I cannot neglect the packaging for this review. Inside a sturdy "LP" style gate-fold is a thick full-color booklet featuring a lengthy essay on the subject and many photographs displaying all the "delicatables" extracted from this pig's life. Even more curious is a purchase form of the sale of this pig whose life story is captured in this audio document.
I highly recommend this recording. I think it will provide some food-for-thought while serving up one of the most unusual listening experiences you are likely to hear in recent memory.