Meat Beat Manifesto :: Impossible Star (Flexidisc)

Impossible Star’s tracks are all crisp and clear with plenty of space for everything to sit tight in the mix. The album mixes classic elements of MBM’s style with live bass, Dangers raps delivered in his clear, hungry voice, burbling warty synths and just about enough funk to shake that ass into oblivion.

In 1989 I joined a group of friends to crash a show our friend Moby was DJ’ing. Moby brought a couple crates and his 1200’s. He had 5 roadies. Ajax—the band he was DJ’ing with—had one. We ate their deli tray and traded the worn backstage pass amongst ourselves so we could run around the dressing rooms and see the cool stuff folks were up to. Among others on the bill were Suicide and… Meat Beat Manifesto. I had just heard “God O.D.” This was my first exposure to the gospel according to Jack. It a blast of hip-hop, industrial and distorted unbridled madness. So we were primed and ready for their live debut in the States. The live show they put on blew everyone else away. There were dancers on stilts, people in monster suits, crazy visuals and music I’d never heard before. I met a bunch of the MBM crew that night but if I’d met Jack I would’ve begged him to take me back with him because I knew he was doing something very, very different.

Impossible Star is MBM’s latest and is as incredible as my first exposure to their music was way back in the day. Jack Dangers has since relocated to California (in the early 90s) just on the other side of the country (Bay Area, San Francisco) from me but he is still bringing music from far-off worlds to hungry ears for the citizens of Planet Earth. In his thirty some odd years as the mainstay behind Meat Beat Manifesto, Dangers has amassed a massive collection of ancient and weird analog synthesizers; but unlike others, he doesn’t crowd each song with as many bleeps and burbles as he can. With his partner in crime Ben Stokes, he shows his mastery of form with ease and grace. Impossible Star’s tracks are all crisp and clear with plenty of space for everything to sit tight in the mix. The album mixes classic elements of MBM’s style with live bass, Dangers raps delivered in his clear, hungry voice, burbling warty synths and just about enough funk to shake that ass into oblivion.

“One” opens the album with haunting atonal soundscapes like Krell slo-jams and disembodied voices calling the ghosts of airwaves past home. “Bass Plays” includes the heavy dub bass of Sir Dangers over the perculations of classic MBM beats and creamy vocals chorus samples, like the communication attempts of aliens if they chose dub as their language of greeting. “We Are Surrounded” pops with hard shortwave samples and the chugging beats of MBM’s colossal array of machines, a funk workout for an all hours Venusian gym. Dangers own vocals, with some vocoded assistance, are present and welcome as they’ve been a sore omission from some past works. “Unique Boutique” is a hard driving workout, with obese fat beats shredded by synthetic overtones running under a simple chord progression; the drums continue to build into a crashing series of waves combining bass howls and loping lines of arpeggiated screeches. “Impossible Stars’” drums literally made me rethink how I approach my own music while the rest of the track shimmers and shakes with an improbable, angular joy. “Lurker,” included in a shorter incarnation on the fantastic KASM02 EP (as was another track “Nocebo”) appears here in its 14:35 long glory, moving through several movements of dark dub, true dubstep and inky black sonic weirdness (highly reminiscent of some of the longer form pieces found on Subliminal Sandwich’s second disc). “T.M.I” begins with the steel wool bristle beat of an expiring beatbox before gliding into a silky slo-jam with vocals by Jack himself. “Liquidators” is a soundscape of shortwave tones, overcharged giger-counters and strange foreign voices. “Nereus Rov” bops haughtily into your ears with an explosive snare soon matched with staccato depth charge bass and a ghostly vocoded chorus. “Rejector” opens on a wash of harsh noise that builds and builds into an all-encompassing waves of death static. “The Darkness” closes the album with a speedy drumbeat and white noise plinking arpeggios over ghost pads, leaving the listener jazzed and ready for another run through.

Impossible Star as an album stands out as consistently good which is no small feat as many artists in their third decade often fall prey to nostalgia and lackluster, phoned-in performances of previous hits and cliches. MBM shows no sign of this by incorporating common elements of their music while pushing their own boundaries and envelopes. This is not an easy thing in this age of modular driven, recycled sample heavy music. Jack Dangers and Co. returning to remind the youngins how it’s done with Impossible Star setting many ears alight with delight and wonder, priming them for more to come.

Impossible Star is available on Flexidisc.
Read recent interview with Jack Dangers here.

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