After dropping his first innovative releases over 10 years ago, Meat Beat Manifesto has released on album about every two years and has managed to do so with remarkable consistency. The main man behind the group, Jack Dangers, has been the constant for this time and although he's had different musicians that he's worked with through the years, he's always managed to stay inventive and original. While he's fortunately caught the ear of more people lately (with tracks off his Actual Sounds And Releases recording being used in the soundtrack to The Matrix as well as in a fairly famous car commercial.
It seems like nearly all artists who are around for awhile end up releasing a 2CD set at some point or another and it's no different with electronic artists. Whether it is the industrial collage of Nine Inch Nails The Fragile, the beautifully minimal Selected Ambient Works Volume 2 by Aphex Twin, lots of artists eventually have the material and gumption to spread a release out over 2 discs and while sometimes it makes for a fair amount of filler, in the case of Meat Beat Manifesto it's a good thing.
Although Subliminal Sandwich runs almost 140 minutes in length (each disc is nearly packed to the maximum), it manages to stay interesting nearly throughout its entirety. One of the reasons for this might lay in the fact that it feels like sort of a concept album of sorts, with more beat-driven songs making up the majority of the first disc while darker, more ambient tracks fill up the second one. While the first one is more of what you'd expect from Dangers, the second one goes in new and interesting territory.
Disc one opens up with a cut-up pastiche of weird samples and a slower groove on the first track, the album kicks into gear on "Nuclear Bomb." Mixing sort of a reggae vocal sample over a slowed-down breakbeat, the track lumbers along not quite fit for the dancefloor, but catchy enough to have you moving. After a few darker tracks like "1979" and "Future Worlds" comes the centerpiece in the track "She's Unreal." After starting out with a scratched-up sample, the song slides into a wicked haunting beat as the same female vocal sample drifts over it all. The rest of the album is staggered out and split between dark lyrical tracks (like the excellent remake of "Asbestos Lead Asbestos," "Cancer," and "Phone Calls From The Dead") or more groove oriented, sample based tracks ("Assasinator" and "Transmission").
The second disc is where things get a little more strange in terms of the sound of the group, but it's really just sort of an extension and expounding of the work that the group did in smaller amounts on Satyricon. As mentioned above, the second disc takes a more drifting route in terms of both sound and song length. While "Mad Bomber/The Woods" is a swirling cascade of sound with a light beat, "Stereophrenic" takes a little more eerie route with wavering pulses and pitch bent string sounds. "Plexus" grinds along with some dark acid sounds before some of the only vocals on the disc make their way into the mix while "Tweekland" sounds like it could be the score to a movie set on an abandoned planet. It's echoes with disembodied sounds is quite spooky.
Overall, the album is one of the best releases by Meat Beat Manifesto. Although it doesn't quite hold the punch of releases like Satyricon or early albums like Storm The Studio, it was definitely a step in a totally different direction for the group, but definitely not a mis-step. While a couple of the tracks on the second disc could have probably been trimmed a bit in terms of length, there is still a lot of solid music on this release and if you're into MBM it's an essential purchase. Plus, the title Subliminal Sandwich is just classic.