Monday, 16 April 2018

Metroland's New Album Reviewed

Metroland return with a new studio album on April 20th, called "Men In A Frame", the follow up to their last studio album "Things Will Never Sound The Same Again", released in 2016 and of course it follows on from last years brilliant Box Set "12X12".

For this album Passenger A & Passenger S, have come up with the concept of photography, with a twist. They asked 5 professional photographers from Belguim, known as F-8, to submit 2 of their photographs each and they would be used to inspire the songs recorded for the album.

The opening track "Concrete Witness" is quite dark sounding, after quite a long sequenced intro the songs moves into the soundscape of the mood of tracks found on their "Triadic Ballet" album. Some nice pad sounds which I really like. I did think the intro was a bit too long at almost 2 minutes, but that is a minor gripe. "B-Old" is classic Metroland, wonderful melodic parts and dark and moody synth stabs working beautifully in tandem with gorgeous sequencer patterns, quite upbeat and some nice vocal samples telling us the story of age. One of my favourite tracks on the album and one of the more "commercial" tracks.

"Shades Of Pale" is next and again this is an upbeat number, great bass-lines and sequencers are the order of the day here, another track that leans towards the "Triadic Ballet" sound. The main melody elements of the track are wonderful, warm and hypnotic. The track like the opener is instrumental aside from a voice sample of "Shade Of Pale", a sample the band had to work on for ages to get right according to their sleevenotes. Not sure it fits well in the mix though.

One of my favourite tracks on the album is "Proiezione 41-828", a track that has dark overtones and beautiful synth melodies, the main melody is a thing of beauty. Definitely the most "Pop" track on the album. I also like the voice samples on this song, they work well against the music backdrop. If they were to consider releasing a single off the album, then for me, this would be the track I would release. Metroland at their very best.

Another fantastic track is "La Macchia D'Acqua", which is definitely a nod to the sound of their debut album "Mind The Gap". Luscious sequencers and sinister lead sounds, against a driving rhythm, some neat percussive elements too. Again no vocals other than a brief vocoded part. I love the pads in the middle 8 section, this too, in normal circumstances would make an excellent choice as a single. The drop of water sample at the end is genius.

Next we have "Speed Of Life III", a well layered track, I love the drum sound effects on this song, gives it the track a "gloomy" feel initialy, but then we have the sequencers, ah the sequencers, is their a better band around at creating such memorable and effective sequencer patterns?? The sequencers take the song in a completely different direction. A lot going on in this track, very interesting to listen too and it is another track I really like.

"Creative Rose" is the longest track on the album, at nearly 8 minutes and is probably the most "Kraftwerk" sounding track on the album. The choir pads and rhythm section is a blueprint of the song structures found on the "Mind The Gap" album, this track, musically would fit perfectly on that album, here it takes centre stage on "Men In A Frame", it has all the elements you have come to expect from a Metroland track, great rhythm, strong melody lines and superbly created sequencer patterns. Excellent chord changes also play an effective part in the structure of the song. This more than any other track on the album has grown on me most, I love it and for me it is like listening to one of Metroland's 12 Inch Singles.

"Trust" again has sequencers as the focal point of the track, with dark synth sounds and erie pads, I like the main melody on this one, it is well constructed, we also have some vocoded vocals and voice samples, which help break the track up and give it more of a typical song structure. Reading through the booklet I was instantly intrigued by the track "Hope" as it was created using a picture of The Holocaust Memorial" in Berlin, which I have seen and it is quite a moving tribute to the Holocaust victims, it's interesting the band have turned the negative subject into such an uplifting song, the title says it all. A very warm sounding track, with driving bass and drums overlayed with beautiful synthetic tones, a very strong song, works perfectly in the context of what they were trying to achieve in the making of the track.

The final track on the album is "Next Choice", which uses satnav direction samples as the focal point of the song, musically this is again a mixture of the sound experienced in their first 2 albums. A solid and expansive rhythm section, a good strong bass-line and floating sequenced parts and strong moody melody elements. I suppose with this track it begs the question, what is NEXT for Metroland?? We wait to see with interest.

This is one of those albums you get rewarded the more you listen to it, as ever with Metroland each song is full of many layers to explore, songs superbly constructed and they have kept true to the Metroland sound, but developed it further. It is very interesting they left off the album, the two really commercial tracks recorded for the project, "Man In A Frame" and "Pictures To Listen to", both outstanding tracks, up their with the very best Metroland tracks. That said, the album is more instrumental based and acts as a soundtrack to the photographs that inspired the music, so a pure partnership between music and photography.

Also worth mentioning is the album comes with a 24 page booklet that includes the photographs that inspired the project as well as the band talking about the creative side of making the album.

A fantastic addition to the Metroland music library 9/10

.......If that wasn't enough you can also get hold of a very limited edition CD called "Pictures To Listen To", this features the very best of Metroland, so good, I would only change one track on the compilation. It is worth having for the track "Pictures To Listen To" alone, however, it also includes the extended version of "Man In A Frame" as well as the B Side "F-8", the only place you will find those tracks on CD.

Classics such as "The Passenger", "Cube", "Enjoying The View", "Zeppelin" and "Thalys" are included as well as 2 of my personal favourite album tracks, "Quo Vadis" and "Utopia".

This CD features 16 tracks in all and Alfa Matrix have a very limited amount of these available.

This compilation is carefully put together and a real treat for anybody into electronic music 10/10

The album "Men In A Frame" on CD is available from the Alfamatrix store here:

The Digital Download version is available from Bandcamp, with a bonus mix here:

You can get a copy of the Compilation CD, "Pictures To Listen To", which is available now, from Alfa Matrix here:

Metroland are on Facebook here:

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