Review of Insides Album by Fort Romeau

Electronic music is, of course, not a new movement: younger than say rock n' roll, but its late twentieth century roots are frequently betrayed, whether it be in the endless rehashing of its prototypical first movements, or in the sometimes less than judicious recycling partaken by of their own work by the artists themselves. (Step forward, The Prodigy).

Fort Romeau Insides Album

Equally true is that as the technology curve and cost of production has fallen across this and most other genres, the natural selection process seems to have become ever more brutal. Every year this highly congested space becomes uncomfortably claustrophobic, waves of artists and micro-scenes (Seapunk or Vaporwave, anyone?) emerging and disintegrating before they've even had the chance to set up an Instagram account. This hype cycle makes it hard for records to become top of mind, to use a horrible advertising term. It seems that no sooner have you wrapped your way around one piece of work at the edge of the current Zeitgeist, then along comes another which is apparently even more essential. Brought on by our increasingly limited cultural attention span, everything seems like life or death. Until it dies.

Londoner Mike Greene first appeared as Fort Romeau in 2012 with his début 'Kingdoms', a finely sculpted collection of flawless deep house that stood up to most critical scrutiny. Greene's return isn't however merely a re-tread: this eponymous second experience is - as if it was possible - a significantly enhanced one when compared to the first. The changes are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, as subtle as an intuitive sonic de-cluttering and the applications of slightly different phrasings, but the cohesiveness he's found as a result makes this a contender for one of the year's truly essential releases - possibly its most. This archetypal groove is present right from the first moments of opener 'New Wave', which glides on a clutch of insistent notes and a sporadic, way down in the mix synth bass, feeling watercolour ambient and DIY techno simultaneously.

Understated, retro, down tempo, chillwave: all of these terms could be applied to tracks like the diaphanous 'Folle', or the gargantuan, near eleven minute groove of 'Lately', but just as equally they're easy handles for music which at times is beguilingly simple and perpetually rewarding. The latter track has all the feather light touches of Jon Hopkins, but Greene still has the nous to make it highly danceable, treating its early nineties frescoes with the sort of loving attention to detail that will galvanise crate diggers and perceptive DJs alike

A record with a number of qualities then, not least of which is its sheer playability. Whilst the term may be awkward, the carefully paced and exquisitely drawn eight tracks here are by no means so: the spritzing hi-hats and filmic pads of 'Insides' give it a sense of the quietly epic, whilst the cyborg vocoder on 'Not A Word' underlines the producer's flair for the right component at the right time, sketching in the background with expertise far beyond his years.

It's one of those rare things. A needle in the haystack, Fort Romeau is that session record that the listener can immerse themselves in, a fifty-odd minute journey forged in a sequence of vistas of which the next one is just as evocative as the last. An overcrowded market it may be, but Mike Greene has confirmed his status as one of old mother electronic music's 21st century standard bearers.


Andy Peterson

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