Release Date: Mar 31, 2015
Record label: Ghostly International
Genre(s): Electronic, House, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Club/Dance, Left-Field House
Fort Romeau's Mike Greene took a while to follow 2012's Kingdoms with another album; instead, he honed and expanded his music via a series of EPs and remixes, including several releases for Ghostly and its sister label Spectral. Insides, his first full-length for Ghostly, reaffirms just how far he's come from the Kingdoms days: while that album proved he already had a strong knowledge and respect for old-school, Chicago-style house that the Stay/True and Her Dream EPs built on with flair, here he opens up his music with sharper edges and richer moods. "All I Want"'s immediate, irresistible beat proves that his dedication to house is as strong as ever, but throughout Insides he enriches it with nods to disco and kosmische that make his music feel even more complete.
For the four years he’s released music as Fort Romeau, South London’s Michael Greene has poked curiously at house music’s form. On his 2012 debut, Kingdoms, Greene delivered a set of workmanlike deep-house all built around carefully manipulated vocal samples. Spread out over the next couple years, Fort Romeau’s ensuing four EPs documented both his continually improving production abilities and his widening palette.
Sometimes the most defiant stance to take is, somewhat counter-intuitively, not to take a stance. Mike Greene, the London-based DJ who records under the name Fort Romeau, doesn’t stand opposite to the au courant sounds of build-and-drop EDM as an act of rebellion, instead favoring the lush, atmospheric sounds of early synthesized music as he simply finds them far more interesting. He’s right to do so, too—on Insides, his most mature work to date, he uses vintage analog synthesizers to craft a sound that’s reminiscent of the earliest days of electronic music without ever sounding stuck in the past.
The artists on Ghostly International tend to have a certain musicality that sets them apart. Look at Shigeto, whose live drumming stands out from the rest of his beat scene compatriots, or Matthew Dear, a techno producer who croons. You could hear this quality in Mike Greene from the start. His debut album, Kingdoms, was unusually smooth and professional for 100% Silk, the DIY outfit that released it.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. A third of the way into the title track of Fort Romeau's new album, you notice that the kick drum - often the most telling element of any piece of house music - is being fed through the same delay unit as the wire brush percussion that introduces the track. In and of itself, this isn't a noteworthy technique, but the result is a tiny, logical soundscape that reminds you of all the ephemera of live dance music; the little noises that strike on festival tents, the speaker noise, the rattle of old brickwork in warehouses.
Given Mike Greene, aka Fort Romeau's previous home was Not Not Fun's dance-focused 100% Silk imprint, it comes as little surprise that there's something of the hauntological about his sophomore album Insides. Not in the Ghost Box/The Caretaker trying-to-channel-memories-and-ephemera-from-times-gone-by sort of way, but a sort of vaguely nocturnal vibe looms intangibly over much of the album, perhaps highlighting that, even when, as Greene does, producers what to look beyond dubstep's pervasive influence on recent UK dance music and back towards warmer styles like house, we can't escape the night's fleeting influence on any engagement with the dancefloor. Nonetheless, Insides is, at heart, an album infused with the spirit of old-fashioned vintage house.