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Meat Beat Manifesto, "Storm the Studio"

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Cover ImageThis has always been a hard record for me to understand. It's not a typical long-playing album but it feels like more than just a collection of four singles. The botched track listing on my CD didn't help matters. As a product of remix culture, it's a far-reaching experiment that runs the gamut from funky breaks to outright noise.

 

Sweatbox (EU) / WaxTrax! (US) / Mute (reissue) / Run (remastered reissue)

Meat Beat Manifesto - Storm the Studio (Remastered)

Storm the Studio was released on the cusp of the DJ record/remix fetish of the 1990s. By the early '90s it wasn't unusual to see maxi-singles with seven or eight mostly superfluous remixes of the same song cluttering up record bins. Every once in a while an act came along that brought together an interesting group of remix collaborators, but for the most part the remix boom was just an excuse to repackage the 7-inch edit and the 7-inch radio edit and the 12-inch instrumental of the same song for completists. Even though Storm the Studio only has four songs listed on the sleeve, it's about as far from a remix 12" as possible, and that's one of the reasons that the record is so enigmatic. There's a thread that ties "God O.D." parts 1-4 together, but taken out of context, the end of part 4 is completely unrecognizable as a descendent of part 1. And so it goes with "Re-Animator"—part 1 is the funky club track with vocals and by part 4, we're into psychedelic dub territory with a half-time rhythm layers of tape noise, reverberating voices, and feedback. Sometimes a bass line or a sample repeats, other times, it doesn't. Most of the record works through free association to connect the dots.

"Strap Down" (the only song on the record to feature less than four parts) starts off with machine gun drums and looped insanity that sounds like a marching band fighting with a circus over a break beat. A few minutes of bass bursts, "Danger" samples, the words "strap down," and rhythm changes later and the song gives way to part 2 that is an entirely different animal. At seven minutes, the breakneck pace of "Strap Down part 2" is a bit of an endurance challenge, but the song never gets boring. In fact, it kind of turns into a third song at the six minute mark with the apt promise of "annihilating rhythm." That break is all a part of "Strap Down part 2," however on my vinyl copy of the album, there are three tracks for "Strap Down," a fact that is corroborated with the remastered reissue. It's understandable that I've been lost all these years. "Strap Down part 3"? That's a song I've just discovered, and just heard for the first time even though I've been listening to Storm the Studio for two decades!

To confuse things further, half of the "I Got the Fear" parts repeat the words "Re-Animator" or "reanimate," turning the record into a kind of mobius strip of samples and themes. If Jack Dangers isn't literally sampling himself here, he is quite figuratively doing it by recycling his own ideas from one track to the next without any regard for which sounds or ideas belong to which songs. I think that this is why this record never made sense to me. It can't be approached as a traditional album or as pair of singles. The track titles seem intentionally misleading and sometimes we have to take the composer's word for the fact that the parts are related at all. In retrospect, it feels very much like a deconstruction of the DJ culture, but it predates a lot of that nonsense so that explanation doesn't really fit. Besides, Meat Beat released a remix disc in 1991 cheekily titled Version Galore

One possible explanation for all of this is that the boys in the band were just having a laugh. Some artists call every piece of work they produce "Untitled," so why not give the tracks names that don't signify anything? If these were just straightforward pop songs, all of that ambiguity would come off like New Order, but because the album is constantly folding in on itself from different directions, somehow getting lost in it makes a certain amount of sense. It doesn't help a DJ to remember which cut to play, but maybe that is even part of the charm—part of the point. More long-lost versions of "I Got the Fear" and "Re-Animator" showed up on later releases (Original Fire and the Brainwaves compilation respectively,) so whatever was going on, it's clear that the basic foundation of Storm the Studio was fertile ground.  With its disparate styles and memorable lead ins, Storm the Studio is the perfect DJ tool except for the fact that it's almost impossible to know what the record is going to sound like wherever you drop the needle. I love that this record takes so many strange turns, even if I've never known quite how to navigate through them.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 07 March 2010 16:47  


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