The Metamorph: The Man On The 99th Floor – UK – LP [gray vinyl] – 2023
- The Days Of Nemo
- The Precipice
- The Man On The 99th Floor
- Paipei 101
- Weston Link
- Terminal Dream
- The Frozen Façade [For I.M. Pei]
- Baroque Duel
- Twice Once
- Miniature Portrait
My favorite EP of 2021 was from The Metamorph, and we’ve waited for his full-length follow up and it’s due to arrive on May 31st; all wrapped up in a KARBORN sleeve as “The Man On the 99th Floor.” The non-LP single from early 2021 is now the title track to a whole new album built around the parameters explored on that track. And for good measure the guitar of Robin [Scanner] Rimbaud was adding its unique textures to an album that is a very different vibe from the one that faced us on “Return To Splendour.”
Once more, I swear I can heard hints of Vangelis’ melodic sensibilities on the opening “Days Of Nemo,” where its lack of the reassuring piano timbres of “Return To Splendour” immediately let us know that we were exploring very different territory. With the synth patches opting for horn space instead. Rhythm was down to pulsating synths alone. Yielding a somber implacability to our ears. “The Precipice” took a sharp left turn into its skittering percussive bed while surgical peals of Scanner’s guitar, at times affecting a surf tone, vied with the monolithic synths. Synths with envelopes of slow attack and sharp decay buzzed us continually throughout the song like a swarm of insects.
The title track was a song I’d bought two years ago on Bandcamp as a DL single with sharp, clinical rhythms contrasting with languid synth leads. The vocal interjections here were degraded like 10th generation photocopies. Suggestive of human voices but when listened to carefully, bereft of discernible speech. It was clearly the seed of extrapolation for the clean. minimal vibe to be found in this album of songs. Along with “Taipei 101,” which featured more degenerated vocal elements, the net effect of an arid futuristic science fiction scenario manifested itself as the vibe here.
The subliminal hum that emerged in “Weston Link” eventually spread into an almost binaural stereo image, with the melancholy melody coming home to roost in the right channel. Suggesting an unknowable, almost timeless stasis beyond the measurements of man. The bass drum patch pulsing through “Terminal Dream” imparted a remorseless forward motivation. The appearance of crystalline synth leads, like harpsichords, in the coda was as shocking as it was brief. With the track having a long terminal fade as its coda.
I loved the insect-like trills that coalesced into rhythm on “The Frozen Façade [For I.M. Pei]” while white noise patches squelched like distant explosions as the bell-like synth tones [redolent of fine China Crisis B-sides!] emerged like birdsong in the air. The shimmering synth leads of “Baroque Duel” versus the distorted guitar of Scanner showed a dynamic of tension to diverge from the normally orderly matrix of sound and composition that this album had offered thus far. Finally succumbing to a coda that approached bucolic sensibilities.
The crisp, tight rhythm track of “Twice Once” suggestively brushed against Latin ideals of percussion, though employing a radically different vocabulary of sound. The squelchy bass synth matched well with the swooping portamento leads. The sound of whispered voices was suggested here once more; finding an air of clinical paranoia that ultimately saw the coda breaking down the fragile rhythms entirely, leaving patches of silence in the mix.
“Scandroids” [great title!] was the final track here with Scanner guitar offsetting high frequency synths which had the guitar keening like seagulls. I loved the dubbed out pneumatic synths wooshing and hissing with stuttered reverb pushing and pulling us through the music. The concluding “Miniature Portraits” closed out the album on a pastoral, Kraftwerk-like note. Offering solace in its bell-like tones that contrasted with the often dystopic landscape the album proffered.
The sound on “The Man On The 99th Floor” was something more spartan and crystalline than we’ve previously heard from The Metamorph. The lusher, chorused leads we were usually served in Mr. Brick’s work were little in evidence here. Instead, there was a dryly clinical aspect that veered closer to the alien qualities of an insect hive-mind. Suggesting something monolithic and unknowable on the horizon as these sparse landscapes of sound unfolded before our ears.
And yet Brick was wise enough to have Robin Rimbaud add the element X of his guitar to the mix at key points in the arc of songs. As we believe that guitars and synths together are stronger than they are apart, it’s always encouraging to see purely synthetic artists venture out of their safe spots to include more traditional instruments to transform their sound. I’m hoping that this is not the last time that The Metamorph links up with another musician to collaborate further. After years of hearing the name, this spring I’m finally being exposed to Scanner and need to investigate further on the evidence both here and on the Electronic Sound: “Futurism” compilation.
“The Man On The 99th Floor” will be released on May 31st, on LP and DL. The LP is couched in KARBORN art using his “Europe Ozymandius” print to hold the silver vinyl disc. Just 200 copies are being pressed with a modest price of £21.95 asked. With £7 for the DL in your choice of formats. One fervently hopes that there will be a US distribution for the LP as there was for the last 10″ EP, but if you’ve an interest in the physical music, act decisively. The artist’s Bandcamp store already shows 109 copies pre-sold and it only went up for pre-order a few weeks ago. At this rate, the LP might not last too much longer. So you know what to do. D.J. hit that button.