Metro Area

Metro Area (Environ)

Sometimes, your timing can be too good. For the past four years, Metro Area — the recording project of New York house producers Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani — has been turning out funky, minimalist dance music in relative obscurity, at the rate of one single a year. Now, with '80s nostalgia and the electroclash phenomenon raining down full force, the duo's quirky sound, which merges springy new wave with the percussive punch of vintage Detroit techno, is all the rage.

The only problem is that Geist and Jesrani want nothing to do with the fashionista fad. “It's weird because people try to connect [our] sound with some sort of movement,” gripes Geist by phone. He's right to be dismissive: Metro Area's influences are far different from those of the retro fetishists in Fischerspooner or the Faint. Instead of looking back to the future, Metro Area, which features selected tracks from the pair's back catalog along with four new tunes, might just be the year's most original dance record. Sure, there's a hint of early New Order lurking in the glossy handclaps used throughout the album, and “Atmosphrique” includes a direct quotation from that band's “Bizarre Love Triangle.” But the fact that Metro Area actually plays the snippet instead of sampling it testifies to the project's unusual treatment of its sources. Other influences will be less recognizable to most listeners: Avant-disco artist Cloud One and '80s R&B act D Train inform the producers' synthesized bass lines and chugging arpeggios. But the pleasure in Metro Area is less in the references than in the smooth execution. Unique among dance music artists, the group favors songs — complete with choruses (albeit instrumental) and bridges — over pattern-based tracks designed for seamless mixing.

Another mistake would be to call this a strictly electronic record. The songs may rely heavily on keyboards and drum machines, but much of the percussion is sampled from live instruments, while some tracks even include live string arrangements. And gliding along at a calm Latin clip, “Piña” proves that Metro Area isn't afraid to slow down, offering a track perfect for dancing cheek to cheek. Likewise, the rest of the album is made for lovers, its romantic aura making Metro Area that dance music novelty: a long-term relationship in a one-night-stand world.

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