released Oct 12th, 2010
from the album - Let Me Set
Beginning in 1987 as an experimental/industrial duo inspired by the cut-and-paste attitudes of hip-hop and dub, Meat Beat Manifesto increasingly became a vehicle for its frontman, Jack Dangers, to explore the emerging electronics of techno, trip-hop, and jungle. Though the group was initially pegged as an industrial act (simply appearing on Wax Trax! was enough to do the trick), its approach to studio recordings influenced many in the new electronica community during the 1990s, even while Dangers remained a superb producer working in much the same way. Born John Corrigan in 1967 in Swindon, England, Dangers played with Jonny Stephens in the pop band Perennial Divide in the mid-'80s. The two formed Meat Beat Manifesto in 1987 initially as a side project, and released the singles "I Got the Fear" and "Strap Down" that year. The dense, danceable material surprised many critics used to the duo's previous work, and the singles received good reviews.
Dangers and Stephens left Perennial Divide by 1988 and recorded an album that same year -- using a touring group of up to 13 members for occasional live shows. The tapes were damaged in a fire, so the two recorded Storm the Studio a year later. Just as dense and sample-heavy as the first singles, Storm the Studio included four songs but added three remixes of each -- no need to explain the title -- encompassing high-energy dub, hip-hop, and noise rock. With an American deal through Wax Trax!, Meat Beat Manifesto became known in the U.S. as an industrial band, though Dangers and Stephens felt themselves pigeonholed. The duo moved to the San Francisco area soon after, and formed a rough political collective with the members of Consolidated and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. (Jack Dangers and Consolidated's Mark Pistel co-produced early Disposable Heroes material.) Meat Beat Manifesto, meanwhile, continued their audio terrorism with 99%, a 1990 album that added some jazzy rhythms to the collage of noise. That same year, Wax Trax! recycled the remaining tapes from the aborted first album and released them as Armed Audio Warfare.
When Dangers and Stephens signed away from Wax Trax! to the major label Elektra in 1992, the duo finally shook the industrial tag that had stuck with them previously. Instead, the media christened the follow-up, Satyricon, a techno album, due to both the duo's tour of the U.S. with Orbital and Ultramarine and the album's groove-heavy update of old synth groups such as Depeche Mode. Dangers' early material began to be name-checked as at least a partial motivation for the trip-hop and drum'n'bass movement, due to the studio mechanics inherent in the music. The late-'90s full-lengths Subliminal Sandwich and Actual Sounds + Voices increased Dangers' devotion to the experimental side of electronica, though his first Meat Beat Manifesto LP of the new millennium (RUOK?) was a more Spartan affair.
Dangers moved Meat Beat Manifesto to the Thirsty Ear label in 2005. His first release on the label, At the Center, became part of Thirsty Ear's Blue Series, a series of recordings that explored new avenues of jazz. Keyboardist Craig Taborn, Bad Plus drummer Dave King, and flutist Peter Gordon joined Dangers on the album, which was followed three years later by Autoimmune on Metropolis Records. Dangers has also contributed to the Tino's Breaks series of records released on the Tino Corp. label he co-owns with Ben Stokes (aka DHS), and he has released several solo albums, including 2001's Hello Friends!, 2002's Variaciones Espectrales, and 2004's Forbidden Planet Explored.
Jack Dangers, who has recorded alone or with co-conspirators since 1987 under the name Meat Beat Manifesto, has never been willing to confine himself stylistically -- with the result that Meat Beat Manifesto albums have gone in any number of musical directions including industrial, dub, hip-hop, and jungle. On Answers Come in Dreams you'll hear all of those elements at one point or another, but here the emphasis is on a reverberantly grim and bottomlessly dark dubstep groove. Dangers frankly does not sound very happy on this album, but the music is consistently spectacular, from the bat-cave one-drop ambience of "Luminol" to the dubwise techno burble of "Mnemonic" and the creepy funk of "Please" and the bat-cave reprise of "Chimie du Son," which suddenly blossoms into subtly frenetic jungle breakbeats to end the program. "Let Me Set" is built on a deeply eerie sort of zombie-reggae groove -- call it "undeadstep," maybe -- and "Waterphone" starts out like a slog through a dark swamp before suddenly (after six minutes) slipping into a funk groove. When he records with Mike Powell and Ben Stokes under the name Tino, Jack Dangers shows a more happy-go-lucky side, but none of that is in evidence here -- though the bongos on "Let Me Set" do quietly recall a happier time. Everything else, for all its frequent grooviness and serious rhythmic virtuosity, is grim and dark, though it's worth noting that Jack Dangers' grim darkness is more listenable than many lesser producers' joyful celebrations. Fans of Meat Beat Manifesto will want this album without question, but newcomers may want to start with some of his earlier work.
4 Let Me Set
5 No. Zero
7 Token Words
12 Chimie du Son