Romare – Projections (Album Review)
I first discovered Romare just about two years ago with with the second of his duo of brilliant EPs for Black Acre. They haven’t left my box since as the range of styles over Meditations On Afrocentrism and Love Songs: Part One spoke of a producer with an open mind, a distinctive style and a real sense of song.Since signing to Ninja Tune there has been an album in the offing along with trickle of releases over the last eighteen months. I for one have been really looking forward to seeing what Romare could produce over a full length recording and the run-up to the release has seen a hyperbolic set of press from certain quarters speaking of the lack quality long-players from electronic artists and whether Projections could be the one that breaks that mould.
Firstly I disagree quite strongly with that point as when you start to think about albums such as Homework, Endtroducing, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Remedy, Black Sands and Machine Says Yes, to name but a few, then you realise that electronic artists have always produced the goods album-wise as long as they have a wide variety of influences and styles. The point might be referenced to producers who make a one-genre album…I love techno as much as anyone but an albums worth can get a little tedious. Good news then that Projections has lived up to the hype and has totally delivered. There’s subtlety, variety and even a little wry humour in just over 5o minutes of perfectly sampled and produced music.
Album opener Nina’s Charm has the distinctive sound of crackly, bluesy vocal sample over shifting drums and layering gospel-like chanting. The organ builds the drama and tension but teases us to an unresolved ending. Instead we jump straight into Work Song, a head-nodder that shows the fully-thoughtout idea behind this album. It’s built on a snatch of voice and gathers pace with broken beats till a climatic drop at which point the song shifts up gears. There’s piano, then sax along with some sounds that I have no idea what is making them. Motherless Child has tuned-down drums, an aching vocal and then a piano dripping all over the song until another unnameable instrument performs a riff that ends with a comical sounding honk. It’s such a great moment that makes me laugh in what is a very melancholy song.
Next up is Ray’s Foot which has a late 80s jackin’ kind of vibe going on along with beautifully wonky keys. It’s then that we hit the perfection that is Roots. This is song I’ve been playing again and again so it’s placement in the album is kind of important to me. It’s got laconic, housey feel that goes though several peak points during it’s seven-odd minutes with different drums coming in and out whilst the bass sample pining it all down does this bwahung sound that I’m totally obsessed by. Then, after four minutes of wig-out, it goes to another place completely as it soars up and up to a final drop.
After all that I’m glad Romare chose the more mellow Jimmy’s Blues to go next as I need to calm down. Lover Man starts the next round with a wiggling, booty-shaking, stripteasing wind to it. Then, with a bolt of lightning (literally) Rainbow brings the old-skool house feeling straight back in. Prison Blues is another shoe-shuffler as it’s drums and claps skip around, at once playful and yet a little menacing as well. Final two tracks comprise of The Drifter, bluesy and baked like an Arkansan cotton field and then La Petite Mort. This closes the album in a drifty, washed-out feeling – it’s as if it’s all been too much.
I’m already two weeks into this album and a little obsessed. It works on so many levels that transcend any labelling as well as being perfect for any number of moods or feeling. I’ve listen morning and night, on my way out for then night and also in the last 10 miles of 22 mile training run (very good running music). It has the completeness of a classic album with a definite but unexplainable thread hanging it all together. Essential.