May 24, 2005
US CD Thirsty Ear THI57159
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
Produced and engineered by Jack Dangers.
Acknowledged as an innovator in the electronic music scene, MBM continues to stretch sonic boundaries and influence new generations of sound activists. Past production/remixing projects include Public Enemy, David Bowie, Orbital, Nine Inch Nails, David Byrne, Bush, Depeche Mode, and Tower Of Power. Supporting the group on this release are Blue Series alumni Craig Taborn on keyboards, Bad Plus skinsman Dave King, and Peter Gordon on flute. "Without MBM's groundbreaking amalgams of hip-hop and industrial dance music, modern dance music genres such as big beat and drum and bass wouldn't exist...one of Britain's most inventive practitioners of sampladelic funk"--Alternative Press.
Jack Dangers' latest album continues to push the envelope. Jack was one of the main innovators of electronic music in the 1990s. Nowadays he has turned his attention to merging electronic music with jazz. At The Center is a hypnotic synthesis of the two worlds. These compositions feature rhythms similar to those found on earlier Meat Beat Manifesto releases...but the instrumental layers are quite different. The songs on this album are extremely fluid and trippy and feature the talents of Craig Taborn (keyboards), Dave King (drums), and Peter Gordon (flute). In many cases, the music on this disc sounds otherworldly and peculiar...and yet those solid funky rhythms somehow manage to hold things together nicely. This album may lose many early MBM fans but if so...those early fans will, in the end, be the real losers. Excellent material from a man who is still in his prime. (Rating: 5+) - LMNOP
When I was in high school, my friends and I used to have this discussion all the time about how Jack Dangers had such a signature sound that he could take anyone else's song and remix it into something that was unmistakably Meat Beat Manifesto. It shouldn't come as any surprise then that some fifteen years later when Dangers has taken on the task of producing a jazz record for Thirsty Ear, that the result still sounds like quintessential Meat Beat. While jazz sampling and experimentation are nothing new to the Meat Beat catalog, this is the first record in a long and noteworthy career that is explicitly anchored more in the jazz tradition than in the world of club music, hip hop, and dub. I should note that I don't listen to much jazz: I know what I like and numerous attempts to get into jazz have just left me to conclude that the genre as a whole is not really my cup of tea. However, a record like At The Center exists to change that. Thirsty Ear has been building a catalog that could be described as "jazz for people who don't like jazz" by courting people from the electronic music world and getting them to participate in 'The Blue Series.' Records from DJ Spooky, DJ Wally, Spring Heel Jack and others have all found their way into my record collection as ambassadors to a sound and style and tradition that I don't usually embrace. Of the Blue Series records I've heard, At The Center is perhaps the one that manages to keep the most of its creator's original identity in place while staying faithful to the intention of the project. This record is comprised of wiggly flute and clarinet pieces, upright bass, shuffling drum beats, playful stabs of piano, and odd samples--the usual. The sounds themselves aren't particularly new for a Meat Beat release, but they are cleaner and less processed than usual, giving the record much more of an improvised and live feel. Only one track is longer than six minutes, and that's perhaps the greatest success for this record: that it manages to explore and stretch without getting self-indulgent the way some jazz does. That's not to say the record is made up completely of gems. There are two tracks with an extended recording of someone reading quirky want ads in a strange voice, and while the tracks were funny the first or second time I heard them, they drag on after many more listens. However, astute listeners will hear some faint recycling of jazz touches and melodic phrases from older Meat Beat records worked into the fray and that kind of self-sampling even when the instruments are being played live is so necessarily Meat Beat Manifesto that the record ultimately breezes past any low points. At The Center makes genre and style irrelevant to the equation of enjoying music, and that's what it's all about in the end. Like many other talented multi-instrumentalists and composers, the result of the work is less about songs that fulfill a stylistic promise and more about their creator's will imposing itself regardless of the format, rules, or expectations. That Dangers is backed by a talented gang of players only makes the disc that much more of a success. - Matthew Jeanes, Brainwashed
Meat Beat Manifesto main man Jack Dangers has made a career out of continually being at the forefront of electronic music. From his early industrial-tinged material with then-collaborator Johnny Stevens, to explorations of trip-hop, house, jungle, dub, and beyond, Dangers has never remained in one place for too long. At the Center, his first full length of all-new material since 2002's RUOK?, continues the evolution by combining his signature break-beats and samples with jazz provided by flutist Peter Gordon, drummer Dave King, and keyboardist Craig Taborn. From start to finish, At the Center covers a wide range of moods. The disc begins with "Wild", a slow, slinking number that builds layers of breaking beats, flute, and organ. It slides almost seamlessly into "Flute Thang", which lives up to its name with extensive flute soloing over piano arpeggios and short guitar bursts. "Bohemian Grove" has a middle-eastern flair, with prominent sitar over string swells, while, "United Nations Etc. Etc" evokes Daft Punk with a muffled, bouncy bass line and twisting keyboard noodling. Finally, the disc's closer, "Granulation 1", is a creepy combination of haunting background surges and off-kilter piano, leaving the listener quite a distance from where he or she began. The album ambles on in an almost hypnotic fashion, sidling from track to track, switching between purely instrumental tracks and ambient soundscapes with vocal samples. Two such tracks, "Want Ads One" and "Want Ads Two", feature a comical voice-over reading want ads from a newspaper over atmospheric noise. The combination of styles creates balance, and it keeps the listener from getting too comfortable with the disc as a whole. The bulk of the album is jazz-fused, however, and the musicians play off of each other superbly, never stealing the spotlight, but never coming off as tacked on either. For this record, at least, Meat Beat Manifesto sounds as much like a band as a single musician, something Dangers has never really done before. The real strength of At the Center is just how contemporary it sounds. Dangers never succumbs to the temptation to phone it in, and he never relegates himself to simply giving in and playing generic pop music. For an artist to consistently push the envelope for over 15 years is a marvel, yet Meat Beat Manifesto can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with the current round of lap-top composers, most of whom are building off of his work in the first place. -Cory D. Byrom, Pitchfork