Morgan Geist – ‘Double Night Time’

October 23, 2008 § Leave a comment

Published: The Vine, October 6. 2008.

Morgan Geist
Double Night Time
(Environ/Inertia)

In many circles, the term “techno” has long functioned as the collective noun for a whole morass of dreadful, electronically inclined commercial music sub-genres. It’s a terrible injustice for genuine artists like New Jersey producer Morgan Geist. Over a career that has spanned the best part of a decade-and-a-half, Geist has built a masterfully subtle and sophisticated body of work both under his own name and with collaborator Darshan Jesrani as Metro Area.

Second solo album proper – the first since 1997’s little-known classic The Driving MemoirsDouble Night Time is another fine addition to the Geist canon. While his Metro Area work saw him delving into colourful, highly orchestrated post-disco gestures, this collection sees him paring things back to a relatively minimalist, purely electronic base.

Aside from the soft-focus vocal contributions from Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan, everything here comes from a box. Retro synth sounds wash and oscillate with crystalline precision; new wave melodies shimmer and skitter atop; compact bass lines and percussive phrases pulse and pop beneath.

But while it may be clean as a whistle, Double Night Time is anything but clinical or detached. Indeed, Geist’s set is riddled with very human resonance, not to mention a sophisticated pop nuance. The twittering melodic motif and noir-ish undertones of opener ‘Detroit’ arc between rhythm-giddy wonderment and ominousness, while the joyous pop melodies and propulsive beats of ‘The Shore’ and the gorgeously atmospheric melancholy of closer ‘Lullaby’ offer further evidence of this record’s nocturnal beauty.

Geist seems at one with himself here – more comfortable than ever with his purely synthetic mode of expression. It’s Detroit, it’s new wave and it’s camped-up dance-floor pop all at the same time. But it’s also something much deeper and more measured. Whether rock heads relate to Geist’s synthesised aesthetic or not, his quality and nous as a composer is unquestionable.

Synthesisers and drum machines may well be his tools of trade, but with good art it’s really what’s inside that counts. Double Night Time proves a case in point.

myspace.com/morgangeist

Dan Rule

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