Metropolis Metropolis

Metropolis Metropolis

Jeff Mills’ fascination with the silver screen is almost as great as his obsession with the cosmos. For years, the iconic Detroit techno producer has released recordings inspired by some of his favorite films, like Georges Méliès’ 1902 short A Trip to the Moon or the 1966 adventure Fantastic Voyage. No film has fired Mills’ imagination quite like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, a silent movie from 1927 that is considered a landmark of early science fiction. He released his first bespoke soundtrack to Metropolis in 2000, capturing the Art Deco architecture and scenes of proletarian revolt in gleaming, abstract synths and propulsive techno. Ten years later, he wrote a new score, purportedly from the perspective of the characters in the film. Metropolis Metropolis, his third original composition based on the film, is meant to represent the perspective of the machines in the film. Broken into six long, suitelike tracks, the 75-minute album is Mills’ most expansive treatment of Lang’s masterpiece yet. It shifts seamlessly between microtonal washes of ambience, metronomic techno pulses, and wildly dissonant, quasi-orchestral flare-ups; in its enthusiastic pursuit of all frequencies at once, it sometimes feels more like free jazz using electronic instruments. “The Masters of Work and Play” lays out shimmering fields of drones; the title track slips down a rabbit hole of lullabylike keys; “Maria and the Impossible Dream” parlays rippling hand percussion into an explosive climax that sounds like every 20th-century avant-garde classic being played at once. Familiarity with the film is hardly necessary to appreciate the score; this ambitious work stands on its own as an immersive sensorial experience. Mills is not only putting sounds to silent film; he’s also evoking vivid images using purely sonic means. Once again, the visionary producer offers a reminder that the best electronic music is a kind of cinema for the mind.

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