MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO: Autoimmune (Planet Mu)


Posted on May 7th 2008 12:55 am

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Meat Beat Manifesto: Autoimmune

Planet Mu 2008
10 Tracks. 50mins38secs

Meat Beat Manifesto have been on the music scene long enough now for the term veteran to seem almost painfully apt. Yet after ten albums and more than twenty years spent riding the choppy waves of contemporary music, they have somehow remained on the outskirts of things while like-minded artists have lapped up the applause. One need only think of what happened to Orbital after the brown album to see the vastly different trajectories the two superficially quite similar bands have taken in the last decade and a half. Indeed, while the Hartnoll brothers were almost instantly deified following their first appearance at Glastonbury in 1994, MBM moved to Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records and promptly slid out of view. But several records have followed since, and while the Orbital bandwagon has long since shuddered to a halt, Jack Dangers remains, his status assured through longevity as much as anything else.

Autoimmune finds him in a typically restless mood, flitting intermittently between techno, dub, breakbeat and, perhaps most surprisingly, dubstep. Yet when one thinks of Planet Mu’s increasing associations with the dubstep scene, it perhaps shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows to see Dangers experimenting with the form here. The label has moved beyond its early incarnation as a slightly quirky younger brother to Aphex Twin’s Rephlex stable and is now one of the most high-profile record labels putting out dubstep records today. Thus, in theory at least, Autoimmune slots neatly into the broad and accommodating musical policy of the label.

When we learn from Dangers, however, that his intention here is to intertwine dubstep with his earlier techno-inflected sound, the pigeonholing seems less appropriate. And so the music that results is more an all-encompassing attempt to swallow up several musical genres in one audacious mouthful than anything else. This has its advantages, in that it allows the album to go off in different directions, often at the same time. Tracks as varied as the spacey, glitchy techno of Guns ‘n’ Lovers and the ragga rhythms of I Hold The Mic! show off the success of such an approach. But they also water down the album’s central thrust. What at times looks certain to turn into a deep, dark examination of dubstep mechanics falls away before any momentum can be genuinely sustained. This leaves excellent stand-alone tracks like Hellfire looking a little lost, and gives the album’s overall structure a ragged, confused feel. Which is a shame, because there is almost a very good album here. The notoriously eclectic Dangers might not be one to admit it, but his own magpie aesthetic could now and again do with being very gently kicked into touch.

Yet with so many artists from the scene’s early days now too rich or too musically adrift to retain any relevance, it’s refreshing to see a man in his forties continuing to tap into the sound of today without seeming decades out of date.


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