Thursday, January 22, 2009

Double Night Time - Morgan Geist

Double Night Time

Morgan Geist
Environ Records.

SCQ Rating: 73%

Just how long is a decade when measured in terms of electronic music? It’s not so simple a question. Whereas the champions of rock music a decade ago were the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead and U2 (a group who’ve remained dominant throughout the 2000s), electronica’s failure to achieve mainstream success has forced itself into a fickle predicament where the leading performers of one year may be forgotten the next (Matmos, anyone?). Not only does electronica’s inherent underground status limit one’s potential long-term success, the genre’s dependence on technology ages these records, leaving us to constantly speeding through trends for the next new sound. No doubt former dance-kings such as Prodigy or Fatboy Slim can attest to electronica’s hyperactive tastes throughout the last decade. Another late 90s colleague, Morgan Geist, steps out from behind the head-honcho desk at Environ Records and takes a break from his remixing duties to offer Double Night Time, his first album in nearly ten years.

Longtime fans might wonder whether Geist will return to his post-disco motivations or brave new electronic ventures but the answer is truly neither here nor there. Between digging up the past and moving forward, Geist spins a circle, exercising some very modern takes on retro electro-pop while gravitating to the 80s-synths of his first love: Detroit Techno. Never is this more evident than in ‘Detroit’, a restrained dancefloor track that earns its spritely bleeps under the wise crooning of Jeremy Greenspan (Junior Boys). ‘The Shore’ misses nary a beat and delves deeper into 80s pop, once again utilizing Greenspan’s velvet vocals while evoking early Madonna (seriously). Despite some brisk (and just mentioned) elements of retro-cheese, Geist keeps things upbeat and entertaining; ‘Most of All’ is a standard post-disco affair of laser-keyboards and bubbling basslines while ‘Lullaby’ showcases Geist’s abilities when flying solo.

To answer precisely where Double Night Time lands on a timeline between his previous album, The Driving Memoirs, and new, cutting-edge electronica is unsurprisingly 2006; the year the Junior Boys released So This is Goodbye. What makes enjoying this album confusing is that it’s a phantom Junior Boys album; same blippy arrangements, same vocalist, same approach to the Junior Boys’ trademarked bedroom-pop sound. It’s difficult to toss plagiarism charges around since Greenspan is an overwhelming presence here (singing on five of nine tracks), but Geist’s nearly identical approach on ‘Ruthless City’ questions the man’s reputation (a pedigree which has sustained him throughout a lengthy period of cameos and remixes). Where Double Night Time deviates slightly from So This Is Goodbye is in its less-disguised retro-love and quicker BPMs, taking it to the fringes of bedroom-pop and better suited to the dancefloor.

If you’re imagining a spunkier Junior Boys album, you’re halfway there. Where Double Night Time surpasses the average Junior Boys song in superficial energy, it surrenders in terms of tension and emotional layering. Call it Junior Boys-lite, if that helps. In any case, Geist’s work supplies several new additions to your pick-me-up dance playlist or, perhaps, a stand-in release until the new Junior Boys record drops. This is gratifying dance music from an artist who clearly knows how to achieve a particular sound… I only wish he had sought out his own.

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