Meat Beat Manifesto

Actual Sounds + Voices

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Fatboy Slim, the Orb, the Chemical Brothers, and easily another half-dozen acts must all have this CD under their pillows at night. Jack Dangers has been saving up ingredients for this rich stew of electronic noodles and scrambled percussion. His band's previous effort, Subliminal Sandwich, was half as good and twice as long (a double CD), but Actual Sounds + Voices is a much improved rebirth, fresh as the lineup assembled for it. There are far more contributors than usual to this MBM release, including Bennie Maupin and Pat Gleeson (alumni from Herbie Hancock's Headhunters group), and the drummer who goes by the name of Brain (from Bill Laswell's hard-hitting funk-rock group Praxis). Dangers smartly opens the door to these and other musicians, and comes up with an album he could not likely achieve on his own. He is the master arranger of the genre, orchestrating found sounds, vintage noise, an obscure library of samples, and always a rich collage of rhythm; he's typically the puppet master, but now he becomes a member of the band, much to the delight of people smart enough to find this CD. There are high points aplenty on this disc, like "Prime Audio Soup" (as heard in The Matrix soundtrack) and the "Acid Again" single, a true-to-form Meat Beat Manifesto piece. There's also a great Weather Report jam session on "The Thumb," where the musicians sound as if they're actually playing music together as a group in a pseudo-live setting (rare for an album so deeply rooted in electronica). The only weak link for the album is perhaps the feeling that easily half of the tracks are so tightly packed with noise, samples, and loops that they almost lack a distinctiveness; it's like each of these songs are competing to be the busiest and the best according to Jack Dangers. Consequently, a few of them cancel each other out. With just a little more breathing room, we'd have five stars.

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