Originally released October 22nd, 2002. Review originally published 7th July 2007.
Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani’s 2002 compilation remains a greater-than-the-sum-of-it’s-parts classic; pulling together the best tracks from their three highly collectable 2001 EPs spliced with new work, it showcased the duo’s trademark simple but reverent take on 80’s disco, soul and proto house. Like a hip DJ’s bag of the coolest moments from a host of white labels, there’s little here which betrays Geist’s influences in British post-rave electronica and breaks, but skilfully augmented by the highly infectious strings of fellow New York disco evangelist Kelley Polar, Metro Area works on the subway or at a party.
Cynics might rail at the worth of constructing such a recherché sound but let’s be clear, we aren’t talking about a pale facsimile of soul’s incarnation before house came out of Chicago and rocked it, Metro Area is funkier than Prince jamming with George Clinton and contains a panoply of liberally mixed cultural props and metaphors drawn from diverse ports such as original NYC B-Boy street and flamenco. Opener Dance Reaction is lo-fi techno with glorious handbags strings, Miura is Donna Summer-esque vocal trickery to a super crisp beat, whilst early show-stopper Pina sounds like it’s taken straight off the decks at a Cuban Bodega north of 118th, with provocative finger clicks, a minimalist cantina piano melody and a guitar break Castro exiled. Square Pattern Area and the awesome, slightly downbeat but still Friday-night sounding Machine Vibes are as close to a totally fresh sound as you can get, providing a clear direction for fellow 80’s worshipper Mylo’s success with Destroy Rock N’ Roll two years later.
Returning to mine the vintage house seam, Soft Hoop is peerless future retro classicism, devotedly recalling Herbie Hancock’s jazzier electro noodlings, whilst Let’s Get is Chic spruced up for the noughties. Only the fussy, listless Orange Alert fails to groove, whilst Geist and Jesrani find the absolute pulse again with the understated strings and synths of the luscious closer Caught Up. Not being afraid to show your influences is one thing, lovingly updating them to snare a new generation and getting it right is another trick. Metro Area is a funky, classy piece of work.