Fort Romeau: Insides (Ghostly) / Fairlights (Running Back)
Michael Greene made some waves within the electronic music community by pulling out of a scheduled performance with Lithuanian producer Ten Walls after the latter’s online homophobic outburst, and I’m glad he did it. Not only because I think there need not be room for hostile racists or homophobes in our music community, but also because it reminded me that perhaps I should give his music more of a deliberate listen, the name having buzzed around in the periphery without my having really listened. Insides is a pure delight from start to finish, one of the strongest albums to surface on Ghostly in some time.
Greene has a knack for fusing gestures and nods to various dance music tropes without squarely indulging any one of them in particular. Instead, Insides is lush and full bodied and expansive, with tracks that are bright and optimistic while others provide a nice contrast by looking more inward. The title cut has a nice buoyant glide to it with a smooth bassline and soaring pads, while “All I Want” has a tried and true Kompakt-esque vibe about it. It’s that gorgeous melodic sensibility that really elevates the album, and that is apparent from the initial melancholic patterns of “New Wave” and through the more mid-tempo disco flavor of “Folle.” It’s a really satisfying blend of house music, disco, minimal techno, and more — a more upbeat synthy number like “Not A Word” feels like a faithful tribute to Giorgio Moroder, a handsome complement to the sprawling minimalism of “Lately,” probably my favorite of the whole set. “Lately” clocks in at over ten minutes and has a nice low end and a delicate, beautiful piano hook that carries its front half (landing somewhere between the borrowed chamber sounds of Murcof and the gloomy yet seductive sounds of the Dial camp) before dissipating into the hazy brightness of its beatless remainder. Highly, highly recommended listening!
The Fairlights EP finds Greene taking his hand to the hardware namesake that provided the soundtrack to so many 80s staples, and the result is substantially different from the preceding album, though it shares Greene’s knack for melodic hooks and nods to the dance music of yore.
“Saku” has a thick 80s beat a spry bassline embellished by his dreamy chords. In true 80s fashion, he reprises it with a “Beats” treatment (which eschews most of the bassline and melody but keeps the drum track and various layers of effects and atmosphere) before rolling into “Saku II,” which again feels rooted in 80s nostalgia, with a funky bass guitar lick that recalls some of the finest New Romantic pop tunes and hi-nrg classics while its chords recall vintage Pet Shop Boys. Both the “Vogel” and “Linn” mixes of “Saku III” work as the dreamier complements to the preceding tracks, eschewing the chunky 80s drums for something more subtle and driving.
While Fairlights is distinctly different from the album, both releases show off Greene’s talents for arrangement and melody well. Recommended listening all around.