Luxurious, atmospheric house tunes for clubbing and contemplation
You get the sense that Fort Romeau – the alter ego of London-based producer and DJ Mike Greene – isn’t really a guy who likes to rush things. As an advocate of “slow listening”, enriching relationships with music through careful attention and focus, he most definitely practices what he preaches.
The understated housey grooves on ‘Insides’ are inherently suited to the hours after dark, be it via the dancefloor or headphones: it’s a record that very much spins out at its own pace and on its own terms. It’s also one to fully indulge and luxuriate in. After all, anyone who manages to tease atmospheric, shimmering house tunes out of just a Yamaha DX7 and an old laptop, as Greene did so brilliantly on Fort Romeau’s 2012 debut album ‘Kingdoms’, surely deserves your full attention.
With this second album, his sound has evolved into something even more abundant, honed over the last three years through a spate of EPs and DJ stints at some of Europe’s best clubs, experiences that have directly fed into and inspired the ethos of ‘Insides’. His impressive studio set-up has expanded too. As well as the trusty DX7, the arsenal of machinery this time around includes a Moog Voyager, a Roland Juno 6 and a Korg 770, all of which are put to good use.
Rather than restricting himself to four-minute bangers, the extended house cuts here – undulating and considered, deftly embroidered with rich detail and electronic flourishes – are given ample space to breathe and shine. Greene embraces the dancefloor throughout, as with the full-bodied ‘Folle’, which is reminiscent of Spanish DJ/producer John Talabot’s acclaimed album ‘ƒin’, and the fat, resonant, spacey beats of ‘All I Want’. Both are guaranteed to rattle your bones. But for all its hip-shaking moments, ‘Insides’ is also an eclectic record that wears its obvious style and broad influences on its sleeve.
It’s definitely an album dressed to kill and thrill, from the opening ‘New Wave’, big on atmosphere, pinging synths and lustrous production, to the chugging, jacked-up Vangelis beats of the title track. There’s a temporary blip when ‘Lately’ veers perilously close to new age filler territory, but order is quickly restored with the majestic final track, ‘Cloche’, in which Greene channels sonic guru Pantha du Prince, as brisk minimal beats gently clatter and collide with a gorgeous array of bells, billowing synths and twinkles.
Although Mike Greene is keen to play down any suggestion of his music being derivative, ‘Insides’ is ostensibly rooted in the signature tropes of Chicago house, albeit redefined with a 21st century patina, while dabbling in seminal genres of decades gone by – kosmische, disco and early electronica, for example. But then you’d expect nothing less from a self-confessed crate-digging obsessive.