Late Night Nostalgia

I’ve long been a fan of electronic music. One of the first dj/producer auteurs to capture my fancy was Jack Dangers, who records with a rotating collective of fellow artists under the unfortunate name Meat Beat Manifesto.
The name is not a reference to masturbation (at least directly) but to militant veganism and animal rights. A Brit based in San Francisco, Dangers was a practical parody of the progressive.
And the music was infused with his philosophy; I recall a track sampling the sounds of the slaughterhouse.

Despite this the music never comes across as strident. Dangers could be just that in interviews–you could picture even the typical music journalist interviewer rolling his eyes. I recall reading an interview with another artist associated with him and very much of the same progressive stripe, which was the opposite–he came across reasonable and relaxed. Unlike his music, which was embarrassingly forthright.

But Jack was just too good somehow for his politics to ruin his music, even when the music was political.

I was practically a Reagan conservative twenty years ago when I heard this track, Asbestos Lead Asbestos, but even then and still now I see it as a powerful image of an exploited working class toiling away in the midst of decadence, and of the elite disdain for the working class that is such an exigent feature of the present:

I can’t hear you. [sample]
What in the hell happened?[sample]
Information. [sample]
What’s wrong? [sample]
Well he might say yes but he might mean no.
Asbestos Lead Asbestos
Sell him the coffee table – go boy, go.
Asbestos Lead Asbestos
It’s chip board quality, easy installment scheme.
Lead Asbestos
And Dave lives above the roundabout, nobody told him different.
He blows out dust behind the caravan.
Asbestos Lead Asbestos
If they’re lucky they’ll get pearly white teeth…
Times are hard and the kids ain’t learning a thing.
Asbestos Lead Asbestos
Except stealing and fighting.
Asbestos Lead Asbestos 
So they offer him a salary…
National health and a pension scheme…
So he can lie in his bed while he bleeds to death…
So we hand them rich women coffee party handouts
Fill it for the sick, ’cause someone’s gotta’ eat it…
And it won’t be us because we’re the smart ones….
Mode of every public school we live on the west side.
Lead Asbestos
Equal opportunity, except if our pedigree dogs don’t like the smell of your children…
They’re stealing and fighting, but we live on the west side.

“Someone’s got to eat it [contaminated food] and it won’t be us because we’re the smart ones” strikes home more than ever.


His stuff went off in a jazz-influenced direction and he lost me.

Here’s a good example of his use of non-musical sampling (lots of stuff from documentaries and television–the stridently anti-TV Dangers spent hours in front of the television ready to record). Much of what he does are polemics against modernity in the nature of Ted Kazynski.

His 1999 album Satyricon presented a portrait of fin de seicle decline like the fragmentary Latin satire that is its namesake (the Satyr of the given title doesn’t refer to its satirical quality, I think, but to the decadence it documents), and remains, to my mind, one of the best albums of all time.

Non-musical sampling appears to be a lost or at least played-out aspect of music, but the “found sounds” and other samples here give the record a profound depth, humor and satirical quality.

It was all about global warming, fascism and standard progressive bugaboos, but the work transcends its own content by virtue of the vague nature of sampling. Jack wanted to connect his environmental and anti-fascist concerns, probably still does, but the reality is globalism (capitalism) and authoritarianism are in fact going hand-in-hand, and do trace back to what he, in his political simplicity and artistic romanticism, called out by another name.

Time  has come round and overtaken even the author, and that speaks well of him.

My personal theory (or maybe I read it from someone else) is that a work of art takes on its own life once released, and meaning is not set in authorial intent. That doesn’t mean a work that escapes, so to speak, its author any less an accomplishment–maybe it’s all the more an achievement. The artist has unearthed things beyond immediate understanding and the trite context of the present, evoking principal forms and eternal truths.

Dangers did a lot of production work for well-known (but to my mind lesser) artists such as Nine Inch Nails and Public Enemy. His track Prime Audio Soup was featured in the first Matrix film and the first track above was on the Blair Witch soundtrack.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: