Meat Beat Manifesto Off-Center

Jack Dangers/Meat Beat Manifesto’s At the Center was something of a letdown for me when it was released this past spring. It was painfully obvious that it was a foray into jazz, and combined some trusty, open-minded instrumentalists (Craig Taborn on keys, Dave King on drums and Peter Gordon on flute) with meandering rhythms that added up to a whole lot of nothing — definitely the kind of outing that fuels the fire of those who categorically dismiss fusion. Off-Center, a remix/bonus tracks/live EP makes a few minor adjustments to the ingredients and fulfils on the promise of the original. The biggest difference is in the melodies. The first four tracks feature shape-shifting, doom-y melodies smothering the rhythms; this provides a much-needed centre of attention for the songs and allows momentum to build. At the Center suffered from endless multi-tracked variations of Taborn’s Chick Corea like electric piano; here Taborn’s contributions are more stripped down, which showcase his inventive contributions more successfully. The beats have been tightened up too, and King’s drums are more forceful and less jazzy. Live, the Meat Beat crew are at home in front of a crowd; there’s no question the live sampling techniques are designed to move a crowd. This EP transforms what was a two-star album in my book into a solid new direction for Dangers compositional oeuvre. (Thirsty Ear)