Jeff Mills Metropolis

Given how most soundtracks these days are prefaced with the "music inspired by the film" label, it's refreshing to find one that actually inspires the listener to see the film. Detroit techno-intellectual Jeff Mills does just that with this new soundtrack to Fritz Lang's 1926 sci-fi classic film. The songwriting and production is typically Mills - minimal elements of sound pulsed with maximal urgency - but marks an exciting departure from the brash, 140 bpm-plus, beat-driven techno that his name has come to represent over the years. From the opening theme of "Entrance To Metropolis" to "Landscape," there's an emphasis on melody throughout the disc, but it's never bombastic or extra-sentimental as one might expect with a "dance artist" entering the cinematic field. Instead, Mills' arrangements gesture towards the austerity of 20th century classical music while simultaneously re-inscribing Lang's modernist vision with a 21st century electronic edge. The more danceable of his repertoire comes through on tracks like "Robot Replica," "Revolt" and "Perfuncture: Somewhere Around Now," but this time the dance belongs to the workers of Lang's film, matching industrial-age angst with the rhythms of the film's oppressive machines. Unsurprisingly, it's this same theme that what Detroit techno was arguably trying to convey in the first place back in the late '80s. It's great how Mills comes full circle with it by going back to these pre-Kraftwerkian roots of the music. Now, all we need is someone to take it forward and actually soundtrack it into the film. (Axis)