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Metro Riders: Europe by Night (Possible Motive)

May. 23, 2017
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One difference between a fetish and a preference is that a fetish is more a personality tic than a conscious thought. The recent action-movie turn-back toward practical effects is an aesthetic preference; the bro-country subgenre’s desire to mention trucks, beer and sexy girls in every song is a stylistic fetish. 

With Henrik Stelzer, the man behind Metro Riders, a fondness for old synthesizers, tape recorders and obsolete programs is harder to classify: On the first MR long-player, Europe by Night, those elements are as omnipresent as fetishes, yet as deliberately chosen as preferences.

The music Stelzer extracts from the aged technology shows the influences of Kraftwerk and Brian Eno during the 1970s, so he’s refracting a vision of the future not only through the hardware and software but also through the wetware of decades past. 

As Eno once said about the pleasures of listening to a blank cassette, “Turn up that hiss!” Stelzer evidently agrees, presenting eight instrumental tracks that sound drawn from master tapes that have decayed in vaults locked and abandoned back when electronic music didn’t have so many subgenres ending in second syllables like “wave” and “step.”

Several tracks also sound as though they’re cinematic backgrounds. “Tension on the Train,” with its didgeridoo simulation and oscillating notes, could pass as part of a Blade Runner outtake, while “Trauma” has the bubbling of a mad scientist’s lab in a horror movie, along with the blown speakers of a doomed teenage lothario’s custom-van stereo in the same flick.

Despite heavy use of bongos and drum machines, Stelzer is more interested in ambience and texture than he is in rhythm and action. “Metro Riders” might be a clue of a name: Someone on a train or bus can easily be still while everything else seems to move. Experiencing travel that way is no fetish.

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