One piece of sage advice from the film Inception was to never recreate places in dreams from memory, but to always imagine new places. Artists of all stripes are capable of finding their muses in the strangest locations, and it seems longtime electronic act Meat Beat Manifesto recently stumbled upon that filmic aphorism or something like it. They use it on Answers Come in Dreams to bring a startling and effective stylistic transformation more than 20 years after their founding to fruition.
It was merely suggested at points during Meat Beat’s Wax Trax! and Elektra Records days. It was remix window-dressing; it was tasty seasoning on 2008’s Autoimmune. “It” is bandleader Jack Dangers’ fascination with dub, and joined by ex-Consolidated maestro Mark Pistel in this iteration of MBM he lets it blossom throughout Answers Come in Dreams. This is straight-up digital Rastafari shit right here, its DNA flecked with Prince Jammy, Mad Professor, Deadbeat, and The Orb.
Many songs are heavyweight fights between conceits from reggae and industrial. “Let Me Set” pits shuffling hypnotic beats and toasters’ vocal riffs vs. eerie, minor-key buzzes and moans that belie Pistel and Dangers’ pedigree. “Mnemonic” has its uptempo rhythms run through a distortion filter. And before you ask: No, we’re not talking about another dubstep album, thank heavens. Frankly, tracks like “Waterphone”—with its pounded-out three-beat and its clanging, warbling synth abstractions—dares to imagine new musical places, filling in the spaces so proudly emptied by dubsteppers.
And somehow, through the haze, there are still clear indications of MBM’s former selves. When tracks hit like powerhouse “#Zero,” curious vocal exercise “Quietus,” or metallic soundscape “Token Words,” they manage to remind us of Dangers’ salad days. The found vocal samples, the complicated, atonal keyboard runs, the rhythms full of tinny treble, the pinging beeps cistern-deep and full of delay—amazingly all still here, in these places in Dreams made from memory, and all reminiscent of the outfit’s prior peaks. (See: “Storm the Studio,” Satyricon.)
This could easily have sounded like a collection of dubplates of other Meat Beat Manifesto songs. From the backward-looking interlude “010130” to the squishy epic “Chimie Du Son,” Answers Come in Dreams is instead both an unexpected joy and a logical progression.