In Meat Beat Manifesto's nearly twenty-year existence, what began as a collaboration with fellow Perennial Divide member Jonny Stephens quickly became a revolving door forum for multi-instrumentalist Jack Dangers' investigations into sonic possibilities and contemporary electronica rhythms. From the Industrial Dance of its '87 debut, Armed Audio Warfare
, to the Acid House of '02's R.U.O.K.
, Meat Beat Manifesto has remained on the cutting edge of sound design. As an aural sculptor and remix innovator, Meat Beat Manifesto has worked with David Bowie, Aphex Twin, and the Chemical Brothers; under Dangers' own moniker, he has produced albums by Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Public Enemy, and, most notably, this year's Thirsty Ear/Blue Series collaboration between DJ Spooky and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, Drums of Death
Now, for the first time since Satyricon (Elektra, '92), Meat Beat Manifesto is getting release on a significant independent label with its own brand recognition. At the Center is really just a logical progression in the MBM discography, but this association with Thirsty Ear may further broaden Danger's profile among an audience which may not already be aware of his creative talents. And by collaborating with the nearly-ubiquitous keyboardist Craig Taborn, Bad Plus drummer Dave King, and flautist/Thirsty Ear exec Peter Gordon, Dangers adds an improvisational element to Meat Beat Manifesto's already divergent explorations, broadening his reach even further.
At the root of MBM's work is rhythmsometimes hypnotic, as on the trance-like "Bohemian Grove, elsewhere more insistently dance-floor, as on "Wild. But it's more than just about the beat. "Want Ads One and "Want Ads Two have a deadpan voice reading a series of seemingly disconnected newspaper ads that just might reveal a greater link on further examination. "Flute Thang blends improvisational interplay between Gordon and Dangers' own bass flute, while "Murita Cycles is driven by King's almost-swinging 3/4 rhythms and Taborn's more outré piano work.
As much as each piece has its own flow, one cannot be anything short of amazed at the mind that conceives such collage-like combinations of sound. There are all kinds of ear candy to be found deep in the layers of every track, and yet there's an overriding ethereal quality that makes At the Center a softer cushion than Meat Beat Manifesto's earlier, harder-edged work. Even when the rhythm is dense and the harmonies dissonant, there's a certain smoothness of texture in this music that never jars or disturbs the flow, keeping things eminently approachable.
At the Center continues Thirsty Ear's Blue Series' drive to blend modern electronica with the riskier tenet of jazz improvisation. Dangers' remarkable ear for sound potential makes At the Center one of the label's most successful meetings to date.
Visit Meat Beat Manifesto on the web.
Personnel: Jack Dangers (bass, bass flute, bass clarinet, everything else); Peter Gordon (flute); Dave King (drums, percussion); Craig Taborn (Steinway grand piano, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, Hammond B3)