Mike Neaves isn’t one to rest on his laurels. So far this year he’s released the career defining Black Sauce. This was an album that pushed his brand lo-fi techno into hitherto uncharted regions. Despite its roughened edges, Black Sauce had more in common with the original techno pioneers than big-room bangers. It was stark, vicious and belligerent, but incredibly playable and catchy. Now Neaves has released its follow up Meat Window (To My Heart). While this isn’t as terrifying and irregular as its predecessor it does feature the same pugnacious attitude and bellicose beats.
His previous album had a DIY/punk feel to it, but while this still remains on Meat Window everything sounds cleaner and more precise. Opening track ‘Shovelwave’ kicks off with a repetitive loop, while swells of synths slowly grow until a pulsating beat emerges and we’re off to the races. The change from Black Sauce is striking and also subtle. Gone are the lo-fi ramblings, and rumblings, that peppered that album’s punk techno – they have been replaced with sleek synths and brutal breakbeats – but that spark of DIY charm still lingers. This is an album of contradictions but weirdly it all works, so why worry about it?
The most impressive thing about Meat Window (To My Heart) is how immediate and fresh it all sounds. Each track feels like it was pretty much worked out in real time and there wasn’t much tinkering down after Neaves decided to press stop. ‘Auto-Drama’ is an example of this. The skittering beats are one of the album’s standout moments, but the skewed synths/melodies feel completely improvised. ‘Tough Guy Takes a Break’ is effectively a beatless wonder. It’s brave to include a track like this next to all the flittering and scurrying bangers, but its inclusion, and positioning on the album, really hangs everything together. The first three tracks have just been at it from start to finish, but a song that just meanders along, without any beats, really helps bridge the opening suite to the closing one. Through this we can see that that Neaves has confidence in his compositions as well as his ability to give us what we want without us realising it.
What Meat Window (To My Heart) shows is that Neaves isn’t out of ideas, far from it, nor is he a one trick pony. He is a musician who fundamentally understands the genre, limitations and all, and has delivered another selection of songs that push his lo-fi agenda while delivering massive endorphin rushes of sheer pleasure. This is an album for anyone who feels that dance music is too safe, contrived and pristine.
Meat Window (To My Heart) is out now.