DJ and producer Morgan Geist had already made a name for himself (and his record label, Environ) on the international techno circuit when he began recording a minimal electro-house hybrid with Darshan Jesrani under the name Metro Area in 1999. Eschewing the sampled drums that Geist had previously relied on in favor of warmer analog beats and live percussion and using scrawnier bass and keyboard sounds than were fashionable in the big beat and diva house of the late 90s, the New York duo issued four acclaimed vinyl EPs and then last year’s full-length debut. On Metro Area (Environ), snares crack like plastic chopsticks snapping in half, keyboard bass lines twang at odd angles, and the synth washes seem to ride under the beat rather than swamp it. It’s a sound that prizes dinkiness, not gloss, and the simultaneous emergence of this aesthetic here and elsewhere–in the gritty dance rock of New York’s DFA Records, the R & B-tinged postpunk of the London project Playgroup, and the glinting futurist house showcased on Force Tracks’ brilliant Digital Disco compilation–has helped give the appearance of cohesion to a mostly fractured dance music community. “Miura,” which appears on both Metro Area and Digital Disco, struts like a robot doing the funky chicken, while “Caught Up,” which helps power Playgroup’s DJ Kicks mix CD, sends out a rubbery pulse. And the electric piano of “Square Pattern Aura” tenses gorgeously against a shifting backdrop: neon orange one moment, slate gray the next. Friday, July 11, 10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-4140.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Thierry Van Dort.