October 14, 2002
US copies came with Free Piece Suite
Visionary, Forefather, Innovator...these are terms that get thrown around all to loosely in the world of electronic music, but for certain individuals, these descriptions apply without question. Jack Dangers, the veteran composer and sound sculptor behind Meat Beat Manifesto, is one of these individuals. His constantly evolving musical invention has generated a long string of futuristic classics, such as "Strap Down", "God O.D.", "Helter Skelter","Psyche Out", "Radio Babylon", "Edge of No Control" and "It's the Music". Past Dangers' production/remix projects include: Public Enemy, David Bowie, Orbital, DepIche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Coil, David Byrne, Bush, Banco de Gaia, and The Shaman. Adding to this list of heavy hitting achievements, the single, "Prime Audio Soup" from the MBM album Actual Sounds and Voices, was featured in the sci-fi fantasy blockbuster, The Matrix and on its platinum-selling soundtrack. Danger's innovative uses of samples and breakbeats have inspired countless artists (both in the dance and hip-hop worlds), putting him in a category with other visionary artists of the late 80's/early 90's such as Coldcut, The Dust Brothers, and The Bomb Squad. R.U.O.K? , MBM's seventh album and first in 4 years, represents a healthy growth in the innovative Meat Beat sound, and includes colloborations with turntablist of the moment, Z-Trip, and ambient legend Alex Paterson of The Orb.
After one of his more negligible dance tracks became the ass-kicking, bullet-dodging anthem of The Matrix, just what the hell was Jack Dangers supposed to do? Refashion his own myth, apparently. On his seventh Meat Beat Manifesto album, R.U.O.K? , Dangers dumps the cramped, sample-heavy confines of his last three albums, including his commercial-friendly 1998 Actual Sounds + Voices, for a visceral feel as immediate and confrontational as his first gritty post-industrial recordings some 13 years ago. Which is not to say the samples are gone so much as they're pushed around, bullied into second-class status by Dangers' renewed awareness of sonic depth. The Meat Beat Manifesto classics "God O.D." and "10X Faster Than the Speed of Love" were built around basic dub principles like a murderously deep bass line that rolls like a slammed Cadillac and lots of airy space peppered with percussion sounds, and it's these elements that define every track on R.U.O.K? The most eerily cool thing about "Spinning Round" isn't the quiet whirling talisman sound Dangers has used before, but the intangible silence between the bass and a very lonely tambourine. Even "What Does It All Mean," featuring copious amounts of turntablist du jour Z-Trip's freestyle scratching, takes on an earthier live hip-hop immediacy thanks to Dangers' restrained use of synths and layered breakbeats. And there's Dangers' collaboration with The Orb's Alex Paterson, "Horn of Jerico," a hypnotic funk excursion track every bit as psychedelic as anything either of them have released separately. Aside from "Spinning Round," little on R.U.O.K? possesses commercial cache, but what is that against a career-defining turn? - Heath K. Hignight, Urb
When electronica was supposed to break big, it was en vougue to namecheck the Meat Beat sound as a cornerstone of the big beat electronic party music that took over the media consciousness for a while, and later became the soundtrack for selling cars and toothpaste. But when Meat Beat's newest full-length, 'RUOK' was released, it came as a surprise to many in these parts. "Oh, you mean he's still doing stuff?" Yeah. He is. And if 'RUOK' is any indication, those of us tired of the sample-laden soundtracks designed to sell SUVs should be thankful. Without pandering to the micro-genre trends of recent, critically accepted electronic music, Meat Beat Manifesto has managed to crank out another record that is equal parts deep sound collage, bombastic beats and rolling basslines, and unabashed fun. But that's not to say that 'RUOK' isn't without its disappointments. For starters, Dangers has left the vocalizing to the samples here, stripping the Meat Beat sound of most of its political and conceptual weight. There was a time when an angrier Jack Dangers ran channel after channel of feedback into a track armed with ambiguous half-rap, half-shouting. Vocals harmonized into the sublime on tracks like "She's Unreal" from 'Subliminal Sandwich,' but they've been abandoned here. Instead, the vocal hooks come from the next most likely place for a Meat Beat record, the sampled voices used to introduce a beat or define a chorus as in the anthemic "Supersoul," and the cheeky interludes such as a sampled lesson on jive lingo with just enough interruption to make it fun. Then there's the case of two tracks that don't at all seem to fit in the Meat Beat Manifesto repertoire. The album opener, "Yuri" is all analogue bubble and synthetic percussion not unlike the sound of a DHS record, and its partner, "No Echo In Space" offers the same synthetic, technoid rhythm that trades in the James Brown funk for Kraftwerk minimalism. However, the album quickly picks up with the more recognizable Meat Beat sound with "Dynamite Fresh", a "Dogstarman" redux if ever there was one. Dangers cranks up the tempo and feeds the beat with a quick dub bass and spattering of noodly synth notes that fill up every inch of space. We haven't heard a jam like this since '99%' and yet, with all its ferocity, it demonstrates a level of refinement that most funky break music never even imagines. Meat Beat Manifesto has always offered a little more than could be easily digested, from the art/sound collage of 'Armed Audio Warfare' to the simultaneously funky and pissed off sound of "Nuclear Bomb", and 'RUOK' is thankfully no different. It challenges preconceived notions of what a Meat Beat record should sound like while also playing into expectations by recycling samples from Meat Beat records of the past in the ultimate of sonic inside jokes. There are as many ways to listen to these songs as there are sounds to be uncovered, and with the excellent bonus 3" CD included with the album's initial pressing, this should be enough to listen to and think about for quite a while. - Matthew Jeanes, Brainwashed
October 14, 2002
US LPx2 Skor SKOR1102