- Metro Area is one of dance music's truly essential LPs. Unlike many artists reissuing landmark albums, Metro Area—AKA Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani—haven't bulked out this 15th anniversary edition with remixes, alternate versions or demos. Weighing down their self-titled debut album with extra material would, after all, compromise one of its many standout qualities. Its 12 remastered tracks—which includes all tracks from both the UK and US versions—are models of economy, in which not a single note is wasted or out of place.
Metro Area was compiled from tracks that first appeared on a series of EPs that began to emerge in 1999. Geist had set up his label, Environ, four years earlier, and he and Jesrani bonded over the older and slower strains of New York dance music more than the tribal and progressive dominated the city's clubs at the time. The album's reference points were disco, R&B and boogie, but, as Jesrani once said, the arrangements and mixing were "totally shaped by house and techno, so our stuff ended sounding like a mix of those things—kind of minimal, empty disco tracks."
The album's influence spread far and wide. It helped the '00s New York disco and punk-funk resurgence, spurred on by the likes of DFA Records. There are few nu-disco DJs who didn't play a Metro Area track, and few nu-disco producers who didn't try to imitate them. The album's '80s references also found favour in the electroclash scene, and the space in tracks like "Strut"—which makes the entrance of a hi-hat or handclap a major event—was echoed in minimal techno.
Most of the LP's tricks can be heard within the first few minutes of "Dance Reaction." There's the impeccably tight and tactile rhythm, the nimbly funky bassline, the jazzy chords, a flourish of strings and the unhurried pace. These are core elements Geist and Jesrani rearrange over the whole album, with occasional yet essential extras like Dei Lewison's processed vocal on "Miura," the horns on "Orange Alert" or the flute on "Machine Vibes."
Many of these parts were played live by friends. There are string arrangements from the Kelley Polar Quartet. The LP has piano and guitar from Dee Silk, whose Latin piano chords on "Piña" sound sun-kissed and Balearic. Another guitarist, Craig Hillelson, plays on "Let's Get…." What really makes Metro Area feel so human and handcrafted, though, are the subtle progressions that turn rigid structures into music that feels fluid and alive.
Metro Area's formula seems simple, and yet many found it difficult to copy. That didn't stop plenty of people trying. Indeed, as Geist said on the RA Exchange, the "shitload of records" using the same sound palette was part of the reason he and Jesrani put Metro Area on indefinite hiatus after another three EPs. These included tracks like "Proton Candy" on 2004's Metro Area 5, which are as strong as anything on this album, but there were others, like "Read My Mind," from 2007's Metro Area 7, whose overly sweet vocal suggested their sound was on the wane.
The pair have since seemed ambivalent about Metro Area, with each pursuing more song-based projects. Geist scored a bona fide pop hit, as Storm Queen, with a Marc Kinchen remix of 2010's "Look Right Through," which reached number one in the UK charts; more recently, Jesrani has collaborated with Dennis Kane as Siren, a rockier disco act. However, they've not buried it completely. The duo toured as Metro Area in 2013. And recent solo productions, like Geist's Megaprojects EPs and Jesrani's Mirror Test, gestured to the stripped-back grooves they made together.
So what about another Metro Area LP? In 2010, Geist said it was "9/16ths" finished, but we've heard little about it since. Listening to how perfect Metro Area still sounds, it's hard to say how necessary another album may be. If this album proves anything, it's the value of giving people only as much as they really need.
01. Dance Reaction
03. Caught Up
06. Soft Hoop
07. Orange Alert
08. Square-Pattern Aura
10. Machine Vibes
12. Let's Get...