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Destined: Metronomy

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Bernardo Rondeau profiles Brighton's Metronomy, a.k.a. Joseph Mount.

Destined: Metronomy

Download Metronomy's remix of Sebastien Tellier's "La Ritournelle" or his original song, "This Could Be Beautiful (It Is)."

It may have not seemed at all like it, but Richard D. James was more-or-less a working entity this past year, albeit in the arch-cryptic manner we’ve all grown accustomed to as of late. Again going by AFX, he output over three hours of music in eleven 12” installments sequentially dubbed Analord altogether making for an epic recreation-as-elegy of IDM both as culture – collecting sides! – and genre. But while James spent ’05 more or less mourning his lost circuit city, east of Cornwall in bustling Brighton his legacy was being re-programmed.

Landing in this Southern England seaside town from his native Devon, with a G3 bought off his dad after college, drummer Joseph Mount became Metronomy and in February of 2005 local and mail-order record shops found themselves with copies of the long-playing Pip Paine (Pay Back the £5000 You Owe). By year’s end, acts as diverse as French space-age crooner Sebastian Tellier, grime star Lady Sovereign and even Franz Ferdinand would be putting in remix requests. The latter even invited Mount for an opening slot. “2005 was amazing,” he says, “I did so many things that I never expected to be doing so soon.” That’s not to say Mount has by any means been an overnight sensation. By his own admission, along with the checks received from remix commissions, Mount has “managed to get by doing […] the odd bit of sound design work along with the occasional soundtrack.”

Released on the Holiphonic label (who will also reissue the disc with a fuller-scale campaign this year), Pip Paine is a breezy debut that clears the clutter of IDM’s plug-in riddled cabinets and regains the mode’s jubilant and playful melodicism. It’s in the cartoon squiggles and sawtooth strut of “Danger Song,” the hacked-cartridge fantasia of “Peter’s Pan” and the mousy scrambling of “The 3rd”; but always as transposition, not tribute. In Mount’s own words, “I can still distinctly remember the day that I took the needle off my Team Doyobi record and decided to listen to some Blackstreet instead.” Granted, there’s certainly more scatterings of Doyobi dribble than Teddy Riley new jack swing on Pip Paine but it’s clearly a work informed less by braniac technicity than pop abstracted. Mount continues, “I used to really love Funkstorung, Autechre, Kid 606, etc. but feel like they’ve all hit a brick wall with what they’re doing.” Maybe he’s suggesting that if IDM had ditched the manuals and patch upgrades, it would have been able to surmount its self-made barriers and find something else beyond the desert of command-bar blank space: maybe something like Pip Paine’s pixilated flora.

There’s the skittering jazz skins and Rhodes languor of “Love Song for Dog,” which reels like Millions Now Living-era Tortoise minus the long-faces and proggy vistas. “At the moment I’m playing Metro Area to death,” he says and the slinky “Trick or Treatz” is evidence enough, doling out glitch-garlanded basement disco that features the album’s sole voice, a hissy androgynous cut-up. But it’s when Mount plays along to his beatbox syncopations with a guitar that something approaching a minor “hauntology” arises. (Simon Reynolds coined the phrase when describing the Ghost Box label.) In “Black Eye/Burnt Thumb,” “1 String Strung” and album closer “How Say,” Mount strums innocuous bedroom chords on a ratty electric while his machines output Moogy simulacra of something like brass band music in fierce laser hues. Mount’s contours may be far more defined than those of Belbury Poly or the Focus Group – hence the “minor” – but they all seem to equally enact archaeologies of the future through sonic phantasmagorias of an alternate, faded Albion.

Metronomy performs live backed by a duo known as the Food Group: Gabriel Stabbing (bass guitar, keys, hand claps, funny dances) and Mount’s cousin Oscar Cash (melodica, keys, drum machine, hand claps, funny dances). Though there have only been five Metronomy shows so far, his forthcoming EP You Could Easily Have Me finds him dishing out rawer content, perhaps with the limitations and immediacy of performance in mind. When asked what his plans are for the New Year, Mount even professes that, ”I imagine I’ll be hitting the road quite hard with the boys.”

The title track off the new disc crossbreeds “Come to Daddy” screams, some (frankly) Manic Street Preachers riffage and Halloweenie organs into a stomping groove while the wistful “Another Me to Mother You” and “The Loss of a Wheel, Pt. 2” both hang Pignose jangle over clattering toy boxes. It’s not much of a surprise, then, when he states that “I’m not currently listening to that much electronic music,” just after rattling off the Concretes and Wilco as recent home stereo fixtures.

When asked about the future of Metronomy beyond 2006 – which, at the moment does not yet include a single American appearance – Mount jokes, “I expect that by then we’ll all be riding hover boards and eating space food. I suppose that the internet will continue to break a lot of new bands, and the charts will be sponsored by mothercare as it’ll only be children that still buy singles… Metronomy will be going through his acid phase I hope, I might have a real beard by then.” With Pip Paine behind him and facial-hair aspirations like these, it may be time to ready tubs for another Analogue Bubblebath.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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