Meat Beat Manifesto


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A Meat Beat Manifesto album is a special thing, since it usually manages to encompass the styles of other acts while still having a distinct voice of its own. Satyricon features the sample-trippy goofiness of the Orb, the sharp, rock-flavored house of the Chemical Brothers, the streamlined trance of Orbital, and the well-oiled angst of Nine Inch Nails, and that's just for starters. Long-term frontman Jack Dangers truly has a producer's ear, which gives his blend of dance music a considerable advantage: he takes a musician's approach into a programmer's territory, and his use of vocals actually upgrades a song's impact rather than diminishes it. There's more song structure here than in any of the aforementioned acts, making this something like a pop group for sworn enemies of the genre. The infectious electronica and obscure samples create an almost constant (and successful) tension between groove and anxiety, between clubber's abandon and confused introspection. Musical partner Jonny Stephens takes on an almost equal workload as producer/engineer/mixer and multi-instrumentalist, and his lap steel guitar contributions add a wonderfully bizarre layer to the album (comparable to the pairing of Luke Vibert and BJ Cole). Songs like "Mindstream" and "Edge of No Control Pt. 1" add just the right amount of Stephens' Hawaiian space cowboy to the mix -- kind of like a warmer alternative to Theremin. Several other high points along the way in this stuffed-to-the-gills album include: "Your Mind Belongs to the State," a nightmare funky channel-surf through the fractured minds of mental patients and social outcasts, and "Original Control (Version 2)," a wicked laboratory of robots gone amuck, rave/house sirens, and acid-soaked sequencer riffs, making the whole thing sound like an ugly (and wonderful) catfight between Moby and Squarepusher. Again, with all the soundbites, Dangers must shop flea markets and bad video stores two days a week; his vast arsenal of obscure samples range from failed sci-fi to closed-door psychoanalysis to British TV commercials. There are only a few times his "sample cup" runneth over in excess ("Brainwashed This Way/Zombie/That Shirt," "Untold Stories"), but even these diversions are fascinating. This album still sounded good ten years later, and it's probably why they were still respected then. One for the books.

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