Metro Riders - Europe By Night

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2017-05-19

Debut album Europe by Night by Metro Riders (or perhaps Rider, as it's just the one guy, Henrik Stelzer, working out of Stockholm) presents a mishmash of feelings wrapped up in the fuzzy blankie of nostalgia. There's a hazy glow surrounding most of the album that puts it in the company of groups like Boards of Canada. While there are occasional forays into darker moods, the overall vibe is of a washed out reverie.

Lead track 'Stockholm 2024' is an archetypal example of this. It opens with a slightly uneasy bass pad, but quickly brightens things up with a shimmery, diaphanous melody. Both sound like they're being played back on an old tape recorder, with a cloudiness that creates a sensation of dissociation. The percussion here is somewhere between a bongo and tom, choppy and forceful but also drawn back from the foreground. In fact nothing here seems to be in front, with all elements of the song giving way to each other continuously. The heart of the song feels like an endless unfolding, like the petals of a flower folding out from the center to reveal ever more petals.

'Tension on the Train' uses most of the same components, but adjusts the mix.  The beats are slower, and the bass is a bit grindier, creating a much more noticeable malaise, but it's still marked by bright melodic moments, like a curtain waving back and forth in the breeze.

'Rats' is a swirling, glittering piece, as though it's slowly washing down a giant drain in lazy circles. It's reprised in 'Bruno Mattei', which is essentially the first segment of 'Rats' slightly mixed around and with a bit more recording hiss, and lacking the beats of the original. There's more time spent zoning out and none spent sparkling. 'Trauma' is similar, but goes off in more of a UFO abduction direction, taking the listener to some alien world to stare into space.

'Suburban Youth' has a more relaxed and sweet melody, with a definite retro sound to the production that reminds me of fellow 80s throwback High Tides. The rippling melody rolling in and out of the song is borderline sublime. At this point in the album, though, the samey percussion is getting somewhat dull and mars the song just a bit. It's definitely one of the weakest aspects of the set, a relatively unimaginative spot in otherwise well made music.

Two tracks go into murkier places. 'A New Dawn' layers the blunting a bit too thickly, leading to a bass-heavy melody that's crushed under its own weight before running down and petering out to nothingness like dissipating effluvia. Finally track 'Endgame' is where the work most closely resembles the creepiness of old John Carpenter soundtracks or the recent Stranger Things TV series, with a dirge-like bass and weirdly piped in melody.

Overall it's a solid set, though not without its flaws. For a debut especially, it's pleasant enough, and I'd hate to discourage Stelzer from continuing down the path he's begun, as there's plenty of potential for a more refined approach to these sounds going forward. I'd say it's worth a listen, but it's not going to be a huge landmark in your musical landscape. Rather, it's more of a humble guidepost with some tantalizing implications.

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