At the end of Scale's first song, there's a moment when a pair of singers repeat "I'm all over this" nine times as strings swell and horns grow brassy. The phrase seems to flip meanings with each iteration—from a declaration of presence to a snide dismissal—but multiple meanings do apply to a song whose hinted subject matter is both a crumbling relationship and a world at war. The two come together in the simple title "Something Isn't Right," which takes on a nervous-making tone as it's sung against an incongruously lush background of big-band disco.
It's surprisingly complex and thematic for the realm of dance music, but Herbert rarely has it any other way. Whether running song-cycles through sumptuous house music on albums like Bodily Functions or brewing political steam in twitchy tracks made from the sounds of Starbucks coffee, Herbert has earned a singular reputation as a soulful, cerebral didact. Some of his recent work has prioritized conceptual aims at the expense of his formidable musical talent, but Scale strikes a balance with songs as melodic and inviting as any he's ever composed.
Rhythmically charged tracks like "The Movers And The Shakers" and "Harmonise" bump like early-evening disco, but it's disco full of sideswiped horn charts, strange electronic whirs, coughs, and harmonies that could make a grandmother swoon. Regular Herbert singer Dani Siciliano lends her smoky voice to most of the highlights, which include a number of slow-going torch songs fit for an imaginary movie musical. Such a film would be marked by earthy engagement more than escapist fantasy, though. In accordance with a line in the cleverly indirect condemnation song "Moving Like A Train," "No artist ever painted darkness out."