I came across Metroland 5 years ago when I heard the track "The Passenger" and was blown away by it, so much so, without hearing anything else by the band, I bought the album "Mind The Gap" which contained that particular track, since then I have been an avid fan.
Here we are 5 years later and Metroland have released a 4CD Anthology, the main focus being on their 12 Inch Singles output. In addition they also present their 12 "B Sides" and 12 "7 Inch Singles". The key factor being the number 12. They haven't stopped there though, as they also include, a 4th Disc which features their rarities, unreleased tracks and demo's.
What makes the Box Set so appealing is the fact that a large percentage of the tracks in this box set haven't been released on CD before, as ever with Metroland, attention to detail is paramount. Whilst enjoying the audio content in the box set you can also have a good read through the 14 additional cards that have been included, which gives you a history about the tracks, what inspired the concepts and ideas, it is a treasure trove of information.
So onto the CD's themselves, disc 1 houses 12 x 12 Inch singles, with plenty to interest the fan and the casual listener, get lost in the wonderment of "Enjoying The View" or ride the rails listening to "The Passenger", "Harry Beck" (Previously unreleased version) or "Theme For Metroland" (again not previously released). Then we have an unreleased Metroland 12 inch version of "Thalys" sitting alongside the brilliant extended version of "Zeppelin". "The Manifesto" 12 inch version is sublime and for the final single off "Triadic Ballet", we get another unreleased extended version of "Re-Design". The extended versions of all 3 singles released off the "Things Will Never Sound The Same Again" album are included, "Under The Roof", "Synthetic Sound" and "Brother", which show a darker and more thoughtful side of Metrolands music as they pay tribute to their sound engineer, Louis Zachert, who passed away suddenly, nearly 2 years ago.
The final track on disc 1 is the "Large" version of their new single "Cube", a track that has really grown on me, mainly down to the superb video the band have put out for the track, if you haven't seen it, you must check it out (Link at the bottom of this review).
So to sum up CD1, it's packed with quality from start to finish, with the bonus of unreleased versions as well!
Disc 2 features the bands B Sides, and their are some gems on offer here too. Their policy is, the B Sides have to be as good as the A side, otherwise it gets discarded, and when you listen to this disc in its entirety they deliver on their promise. "Inner City Transport" and "1863" are the B Sides for the "Mind The Gap" single releases that are included, along with the track "2013", which was a stand alone track that was released at the end of December 2012, as a thank you to fans, originally this was going to be the B Side to a planned single release of "Theme For Metroland" that was scrapped. We are also treated to the rare "Paris Edit" of "Thalys", which was planned as the B Side to a seven inch vinyl version of "Thalys", again this was never released (they did however release the "Thalys" track on 12 inch vinyl). From the outstanding "Thalys" release we have the track "From Station To Station", which continues the journey of the original "Thalys" track, think of Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express" and you will know what I mean, electronic perfection. One of my favourite B Side is "(We Need Machines) Without Romance with a lead synth sound which reminded us of Gary Numan's 80s period (when he was good!). The next two tracks offer a bit of a history lesson, "The Hindenberg Landing" deals with the Hindenberg Tragedy in 1937, complete with Herbert Morrison's audio report of the event mixed in with the music to great effect, whilst "A Man Walked On The Moon" deals with the historic moon walk of Neil Armstrong, evidence again, that Metroland research facts and information even for their B Sides, something that really makes them unique. "Vers La Cote D'Azur" is simply beautiful and could be seen, as a companion to "Enjoying The View", as it deals with a journey, this time by road.
"Good Moaning (Werk Mix) and "See You" are the B Sides to the singles off "Things Will Never Sound The Same Again", "See You" is interesting as it features a vocal sample by Marsheaux, whom the band are massive fans of, it is a small section of their cover of the Depeche Mode track "See You" they have covered. If you haven't come across Marsheaux, check them out as they are fantastic. Disc 2 features another new track to close, "Led Me Think", this is another track that really grows on you the more you hear it and is the B side to the new single "Cube".
It has to be said, quite a few of these B Sides are more than good enough to have been considered for album tracks and some even as an "A Side", this disc is quite a journey, it's varied and very enjoyable to listen to.
So to disc 3 which features the bands 7 inch singles, a greatest hits I suppose you could say, however, the band had decided to give the 12 inch singles the limelight and rightly so. That said, what we have here is another truly excellent set of recordings in the shorter format. "The Passenger" and "Enjoying The View" need no introduction, however, their is the interesting inclusion of "Harry Beck (The laurent boudic under növö remix edit), which was only previously been avaiable on a promo video on Youtube, so appears in this collection for the first time, as does the impressive 7 inch remix of "Theme For Metroland". The next 2 singles "Thalys (London Edit)" and "Zeppelin" sound better than ever, tracks I absolutely love!
Next we have several singles that are on CD for the first time, "The Manifesto", "Re-Design", Under The Roof", "Synthetic Sound" and "Brother" before closing with the new single "Cube", a track that was initially worked on during recordings for the album "Triadic Ballet".
Disc 4 is a real gem in this Box Set, especially if you are a big fan of the band as we are treated to no less than 9 tyracks in demo form, including the original demo of "Inner City Transport", which was originally called "Free Ride", "Theme For Metroland", originally called "Metro Pop" and the demo of "It's More Fun To Commute", which was called "Fun To Commute", these are from the "Mind The Gap" Sessions, so it is very interesting to see how these songs developed from their early demo phase to finished article. In addition, from the "Mind The Gap" archives we also have 2 unreleased tracks "Smoking Not Permitted" and "Underground Love", both very interesting tracks to listen too and an unreleased version of "Theme For Metroland (Berlin Mix)". Rounding off the "Mind The Gap" period we have the "Elektrozavodskaya Mix" of "Moscow Main".
A fascinating track is "Elephant" which is about one of the first passenger trains that was used in Belgium in 1835, even discarded tracks have a history with Metroland!
There are 2 demo's from the "Triadic Ballet" period, "berlin-unterwelten" (Demo of "Machines Gone Mad") and "Space Age" (Demo of "The Manifesto"), again very interesting to hear the development of these tracks with the recordings in this set. I am delighted that an extended version of "Vers La Cote D'Azur" is included on this disc, as it is one of my favourite B Sides and has only previously been available on a very limited edition Promo CD. There is also a previously unreleased version of "Les Trois Coulers" (the Sherwood Modus Mix), which is a track off "Triadic Ballet". The "YouTube" version of "Design"also finds it's way on to CD for the first time, as does the "Version Musicocoon Mix" of Music/Machine.
Now to two of my favourite tracks on this CD, the delightful and beautiful Orchestral Version of
"Zeppelin", a bit more of a stripped down version of the track but with a completely different vocal sample, the vocals are by a young female child and it is truly magnificent, the second track is the demo of "Quo Vadis", the original version is my favourite track off the "Things Will Never Sound The Same Again" album, this demo is in 2 parts, a more electronic version first, in which you can hear the ideas pushing through for the finished track, then you are transported back to 1996 for a version that is totally different, it has a female vocal and the mood and feel of the track is light years away from the completed version. It shows over time how much a track can change from it's early demo version to the released version.
This is how a Box Set should be presented, a wealth of information and 4 discs showing the different sides of Metroland and their music. their attention to detail is quite remarkable and unique and they have delivered a product that is well worth adding to your CD collection.
Gentlemen, it has been an absolute pleasure to review this Box Set, here's to the next five years!
Total perfection 10/10
The "12 X 12" Box Set is available from Metroland's homepage here
It is also available via their record label Alfa Matrix here
Their are two Digital Editions available, the 12 X 12 Inch Singles is available on Bandcamp here
The second Digital release "12 & 12" features previously unavailable remixes, including 3 exclusive remixes, noyt available anywhere else, that is also available on Bandcamp here
Watch the video for "Cube" here
Visit the Marsheaux homepage here
White Lion Radio have 3 Radio Shows dedicated to this Metroland release:
An exclusive indepth interview with Metroland is available to listen to on Mixcloud here
Passenger A & Passenger S select their favourite 12 tracks of all time on our "2 X 12" show on Mixcloud, which is available here
"Metroland Reconfigured" is White Lion Radio's 12 favourite remixes by other artists of tracks recorded by Metroland, the show is available on Mixcloud here