|Album Review: Fort Romeau – Insides|
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Ann Arbor, MI
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It makes a lot of sense that Ghostly International calls Ann Arbor, Michigan its home. The label owes so much to neighboring Detroit's pioneering techno scene, as well as the house scene in Chicago, yet it's enough of an oddball that it tends to rest on the fringes of things, rather than neatly in any one box. With that being said, Fort Romeau's debut LP for the label, Insides, doesn't seem too concerned with experimentation or innovation. The English producer, born Michael Greene, seems most concerned with purity here. He's putting all his money on his sonic palette and knack for graceful, gradually shifting hypnosis. The result is basically a seminar in classic house, and a continually rewarding listen if given its fair share of patience.
Insides begins with "New Wave," a somewhat ironically-titled track with a flute-like sound stirring the air into a suspenseful, creeping pace. Next is "Folle," a more placid track that conjures memories of science documentary soundtracks just as much as dance floors. Greene picks up the pace a bit for "All I Want," with harder-hitting drums and the emergence of the album's first vocal sample. This is no pop vocal, though; Greene uses the human voice as just another sound in his repertoire, here just a lonely sigh dancing over the funky synth tones.
The title track takes things a little ways into techno territory, with a slinking rhythm being blown around by dissonant gusts of noise. Meanwhile, "Not a Word" uses sleek tones and robotic voices to create a mood that is strangely both calm and sinister. It's a feeling one gets often while listening to Insides, an insidious unease that Fort Romeau injects under the surface of his productions' lush external beauty.
Insides is only Fort Romeau's second full-length, and his debut for the highly-esteemed Ghostly label. It's remarkable how the young talent is able to bridge the gaps between opposites so well; the album is classic without feeling redundant, and equally suited for dancing or just getting some work done at your desk. Greene's patience and obsession with aesthetic quality makes Insides an instant classic, on a label where that is no easy feat.