Jack Dangers can never be accused of finding a formula and sticking with it even after it becomes moldy and stale. His fifteen-plus years of making electronic music are a veritable smorgasbord of electronica inventions that became conventions for artists in his wake. With At Center, Dangers is taking us on what might seem to be a familiar trip — anyone remember acid jazz? — but in true Meat Beat Manifesto style, this is anything but a predictable ride. This record is not Helter Skelter part two or a return to his Actual Sounds and Voices heyday; it’s a remarkable melding of “traditional” musicians and breakbeat gymnastics. Dangers has combined forces with flutist Peter Gordon, keyboardist Craig Taborn and drummer Dave King, and the result is a record that is the product of a band, not merely a talented programmer/bassist.
At the Center fulfills the promise acid jazz made to us, finally harnessing the cool of jazz to the frenetic pulse of the beats, elevating the electronic fusion to more than just background chill-out music. But as with all of his Meat Beat Manifesto output, you can certainly dance to it, it’s so infectious. The tiptoeing bass line on “Murita Cycles” is the perfect counterpoint to the wandering, tumbling flute and piano lines, tethering these meanderings to Earth while simultaneously letting them bounce about in the ether. On the two “Want Ads” tracks, the splicing of Kenneth Rexroth’s reading of classified ads over an oh-so-cool, snap-your-fingers, click-your-heel-to-the-linoleum-in-the-dark-bowels-of-a-smoky-bar bass line is the closest some of us will get to being “there” in Beat San Francisco. The whole record hangs together like a finely tailored bebop-era suit — sharp in all the right places and incredibly stylish without being overstated. At the Center is a nearly flawless distillation of electronica/techno sensibilities infused with jazz improvisation.
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