Show Review: Meat Beat Manifesto with Not Breathing at The Mezzanine, 2/11/2011

by Jonathan Pirro on February 12, 2011

Jack Danger and Mark Pistel of Meat Beat Manifesto

Jack Danger and Ben Stokes of Meat Beat Manifesto

Today’s electronic music scene seems to be filled with performers that emphasize minimalism to the point of frustration. These days, an electronic performance can consist of a single person with little more than a laptop, a mixer (maybe), and some sort of interface to allow quick manipulation of the instruments on the fly — despite the fact that said person could simply just hit “go” and then bob their head to their beat-laden wall of sound. Therefore, excitement comes in the form of performances involving tables worth of analog gear thrown pell-mell across a stage, with wild projections and snarling, harsh noises created from both. This was the case on Friday evening, when the Mezzanine welcomed Swindon’s electronic veterans Meat Beat Manifesto for a night of furious bass, hyperactive beats, and brilliantly-crafted visual effects.

Not Breathing

Not Breathing

The rather late evening began with a performance from the Tuscon collective known as Not Breathing, the brainchild of electronic composer David Wright. Described by the frontman as one of their few fully-improvisational performances, the 50-minute set saw the trio shifting from machine to machine, crafting a massive wall of growling, shrieking industrial noise spearheaded by a thundering bass track and random bursts of synthesized glitching sounds. About 4 “pieces” were mixed into the set, each with accompanying visuals that spiraled, changed color, grew and shrunk on the projector screens above and behind the band, who spent the near-hour hunched at the edge of the stage manipulating their equipment. As blistering and boomy as it seemed to get for some points of the show, the ferocious set was met with great appreciation from the crowd, who piled up near the musicians and thrashed about for nearly the entire duration of the performance.

Jack Danger of Meat Beat Manifesto

Jack Danger of Meat Beat Manifesto

The audience pulled in even closer and grew even more dense, however, by the hour of 11:00, when the duo of Meat Beat Manifesto marched behind their giant equipment tables and sputtered the second half of the show to life. Immediately, everyone present felt their skulls rattle within their heads, as an immense wave of bass washed over the Mezzanine for the kickoff of the performance. The most recent records from frontman Jack Danger and the associated MBM posse have seen elements of Danger’s interpretation of dubstep, and there were several songs during the set that fit this description quite well. While possessing enough of the “wub-wub” bass wobble that dominates the rising dubstep scene, many of the band’s pieces were also sprinkled with their trademark sounds of pop-culture clips, harshly-processed breakbeats and chaotic drum samples. The tempo of the songs also spanned the gamut from slow, grinding dub numbers to upbeat thrill rides, and unlike their longer-winded openers, Danger and partner Ben Stokes faded out between each track, giving a distinct separation between each of their songs.

Mark Pistel of Meat Beat Manifesto

Ben Stokes of Meat Beat Manifesto

The array of gear that littered the stage allowed the band to pull from all sorts of sounds and effects. While sampled drum loops and hammering bass dominated most of the tracks, synthesizer yelps, turntable scratches, and bursts of noise spiced up the activity and turned each song into its own genre-bending element. Danger added his own vocals, with and without effects, to several of the pieces, while Stokes magicked his way from device to device by aid of touchpad, lighted drumstick, and occasionally computer keyboard. Accompanying each piece and beat of the songs was the insane visual spectrum that occupied the screens behind the band, with audio samples being tied to the movie clips they had been ripped out of (the clips from said movies moved and writhed on the screen in accordance with their own samples).

MBM and their video screens

MBM and their video screens

The visual element was really the key to the performance, as the precision of their sample placement required Danger and Stokes to remain in a fairly small circle of movement throughout the night. The intensity of the sound and the signal being sent through the various devices seemed to be well-received by the audience, with the entire floor dancing about even through the vast tempo changes. The load on the gear, however, seemed to mount to struggling points a few times during the performance, with the video screens or audio signal sometimes being difficult to kick back into gear after a song. Finally, just around 12:30am, the duo performed a song without any visual accompaniment, before Danger suddenly declared that the equipment onstage was too hot to handle any more abuse — he did remark, however, that they had reached the end of the show anyway, so the timing was appropriate, even if the ending was rather abrupt.

The frenetic intensity of Meat Beat Manifesto’s live show is delicately balanced with the near-nonexistent movement of its players, and it was truly a treat to be able to see some of the purveyors of the underground electronic music scene churning out their craft with all the gusto that they brought to the scene 20 years ago. Whatever the specific reason for the disruption at the end, it seemed rather fitting that they pushed their equipment to the breaking point to reach such a conclusion, although a good chunk of the crowd was likely displeased by the sudden stoppage of the performance. Danger’s experimentation with dubstep and elements of glitch added to the excitement of the performance, and it will be very interesting to see what he brings to his next album of work.

All photos by Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris February 13, 2011 at 2:47 am

Correction: That’s Ben Stokes alongside Dangers, not Mark Pistel. http://blogs.ocweekly.com/heardmentality/2011/02/meat_beat_manifesto_at_the_el.php

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Tastee February 13, 2011 at 4:08 am

“Mark Pistel of Meat Beat Manifesto” was in attendance. The person in this picture is actually Ben Stokes.

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Copsbeatinghippies February 14, 2011 at 3:59 am

jack dangers (along with mick harris) is arguably the godfather of dubstep. not an interpretation. come correct, show respect.

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Copsbeatinghippies February 14, 2011 at 3:59 am

jack dangers (along with mick harris) is arguably the godfather of dubstep. not an interpretation. come correct, show respect.

Reply

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