April 16th, 2008

April 2008 concert 2: Meat Beat Manifesto at Neumos

Last Wednesday (April 9) I went to Neumos to see Meat Beat Manifesto, with Raz Mesinai opening.

Raz Mesinai appeared as a solo artist, one man sitting at a table with a laptop and some electronic gear. He played a continuous 45-minute set of rhythm-heavy electronica. He had no presence to speak of - his table was off to the side of the stage, he had no distracting visuals, and the music was easily mistaken for the club's background sound. In fact, the friends I was with didn't realize that the opening act was playing at all. I found it nicely atmospheric, and interesting to listen as he worked through his variations, but not particularly compelling. On his MySpace page he lists several collaborators, mostly acoustic musicians (including Mark Feldman, the violinist who played on TMBG's "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"), and I'm curious whether the electronica he played is representative of that collaborative work. He definitely seemed to be on the experimental/art side of electronica rather than dance/pop, and to be worth further investigation.

Meat Beat Manifesto is primarily the project of Jack Dangers (laptop, electronics, and occasional vocals). Accompanied by Mark Pistel (laptop and electronics), Lynn Farmer (drums), and Ben Stokes (video), he played nearly two and a half hours of techno, trip-hop and other electronica. Most of MBM's songs use samples from various film and video sources, including theatrical films, TV series, evening news, public service films, and even concert footage of other artists. These were played real-time during the show, making the video display an integrated part of the concert and not just something for the audience to watch. A strong vein of science fiction ran through the samples and music, as in the opening song with its repeated refrain, "Greetings from the children of planet Earth"; other themes included control, communication, war and violence, and music. They played "It's the Music", one of the few MBM songs I know well, and I noted it was different from the recorded version, demonstrating that for Dangers the music is living and dynamic, not static works to be reproduced exactly the same each time. My main complaint with this show was the distinct breaks between songs, which I found slightly long and a bit disconcerting; the breaks prevented the energy in the room from building, and it seemed like they ought to have used musical segues between the songs. Overall I think I enjoyed their last show in 2005 more than this one, but it was still quite a good show and it reminded me that I still need to get some more MBM into my music collection.

I have one photo of Raz Mesinai and nine of MBM, starting here.