Run Return – Metro North (n5md)


A remarkable “instrumental rock’ release that more than delivers on the promise of Run Return’ 7-inch single Animals Are Beautiful People, the Oakland trio’ Metro North deftly merges tight drum programming, squelchy synths, and electronic textures with guitars, vibes, bass, and drums in eighteen future-jazz tracks. The group’ sound ranges widely, with songs encompassing post-rock, dub, jazz, funk, and melodic electronica, sometimes within the span of a single song. “Remote Sensing” exemplifies the music’ mercurial character, with mechano synth patterns surreptitiously morphing into acoustic guitar and then banjo picking. Similarly, “Our Pleasure to Serve You” commingles radical edits and drum programming with electric piano and acoustic drums before vanishing in a free-form haze of animal noise at its close.

What prevents the music from being dragged down by such intricacy is the sheer exuberance of the group’ attack, with consistently inventive drumming a particularly strong element. There’ incessant instrumental exploration—synths flutter, guitars skitter, vibes ping, electronics babble—, none of which would matter much if the compositions themselves weren’ distinguished. Check out the simple yet gorgeous theme in the “Louis James Corrigan,” for example, whose melancholy elegance is enriched further by Aria Disalvio’ cello. “Soothing Syrup” captivates too, with Meagan Geer’ warm murmurs draped over hiccupping rhythms, as does the buoyant banjo-laden stroll of “Talking Balloon,” And, reprised from the single, the lush melancholia of “Animals are Beautiful People” sounds just as satisfying in this context.

Not all of the material is bucolic. The strong opener “Aerospace Lanes” develops into a tempestuous episode of roiling drums, electronic effects, bass synths, and vibes, while “Weights and Measures” and “Loge Blue” burn and twitch. Faint echoes of other artists occasionally emerge: a dreamy Boards of Canada vibe bookends the title cut’s flowing groove while the post-rock throwdown “Sea Plane” would do Tortoise proud. Ultimately, though, the group’ sound is very much its own. Put simply, Metro North is a thoroughly accomplished outing by group members Kevin Dineen, Tommy Fugelsang, and Raj Ojha, and one that impresses even more for being Run Return’ n5MD album debut.

Ron Schepper


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