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Fort Romeau
Insides Joseph Burnett , April 22nd, 2015 11:29

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. The beats are insistent and infectious, the synth lines warm and the bass heavy. Greene makes no bones about his affection for the Chicago scene of yesteryear and, given we lost the legendary Frankie Knuckles not that long ago, there is a part of of Insides that feels like a tribute to times gone by, apparently never to return but certainly to be re-appropriated with pleasing deference. Insides shares house's celebratory love of the dancefloor, and there is none of the moodiness or socio-political context that has peppered a lot of recent dance music to come out of Britain. Tracks like 'New Wave', 'Folle' and 'All I Want' use familiar, joyful musical flourishes: chiming bell-like sequencer bubbles on the first, gasping female vocals, four-to-the-floor beats and Vangelis-inspired synth lines on the second and repetitive pulsations and vocalisations on the third, all delivered by a crisp production that at times evokes the motorik drive of The Field (only less minimal) or Lindström's joyous post-disco.

Perhaps the most infectiously house-fuelled moment on the album is 'Not A Word', all retro-futuristic swoops of the synth, chiming piano stabs and robotic vocals. It's almost majestically catchy, the kind of track that, played loud, instantly evokes sweaty nights on the dancefloor and daydreams of a future vista where Blade Runner's grim dystopia is supplanted by sleek architecture and liberating technology, all the more utopian for freeing up individuals to dance and dance and dance. It's a great six minutes, pure escapism, and a reminder that, at its heart, house music was bright-eyed and idealistic, a vision of the future evinced through dance as new-found musical devices opened up a world of possibilities.

If Insides is a bright, hook-laden concoction, Greene has not, however, been totally immune to the shadows that percolate the post-Burial scene. Indeed, the latter's recent forays into disco- and trance-informed territories on EPs like Rival Dealer and the morose post-techno of Actress and early Vessel are what spring most immediately to mind on the epic 10-minute 'Lately', as mournful synths and barely perceptible phantomatic voices swirl around a persistent minimal beat or during the title track's stripped down, droning and fog-laden slog. Most of Insides will make you want to dance, and there's is none of William Bevan's acute melancholia, but at times this is still music that works just as well listened to on a lonely night bus ride home at 4am as it does whilst dancing around your living room (I'm hoping I'm not that I'm not the only who does this when cleaning). You can't escape the night.

If that makes Insides sound doggedly frenzied, well, it is a bit. Maybe Greene has been listening to too many of dance music's increasingly disparate strands, but the house vibe is the one that ultimately triumphs on 'Folle' and 'Not A Word'. Indeed, the album's biggest flaw is not its hidden shades, but the fact that at times Fort Romeau sticks too doggedly to what he knows, meaning some tracks peter out rather unremarkably. Still, as an encapsulation of a night out shaking and swaying on a futuristic dancefloor, Insides mostly works pretty damn well, and will certainly appeal to fans yearning for the good times hinted at all those years ago.

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