Fort Romeau Stay / True EP
UK producer Fort Romeau (a.k.a. Mike Greene) likes to play his cards close when it comes to revealing the hidden surprises in the majority of his tunes. The opening and title number for his new EP on Ghostly especially, ahem, stays true to the formula the producer has been developing across his 2013 efforts, the most recent of which being his Ghostly debut "Jetée" b/w "Desire." It was that record on which Greene really began to dig into a more refined, confident pallette, absorbing his influences and pushing his sound away from something resembling naked reinterpretations of decades-old house or a film score. His strides in that direction continue on Stay / True.
Across the even seven minutes of "Stay / True," Romeau anchors his muzzled drums and rolling arpeggios in place, taking care of the groove and allowing the rest of the tune to pick through a seemingly bottomless arsenal of instrumentation, his warm synthesizers exchanging glances with vibraphones. Rather than building to a crescendo, the track runs in place, forming a solid cut that uses its running time to its advantage. It's a third of the way into the song that Romeau introduces vocals, an element that will be played with, and expanded upon, across the EP's length. Here, they are unfiltered, functioning only as another broad stroke of atmosphere, whereas the more straightforward, Italo-referencing "Your Light" and "Together" find Greene employing the vocoder in a surprisingly tasteful fashion. Admittedly, the producer has mined this territory before, but not to the extent that he does here, and on both tunes, especially "Together," this works tremendously to the EP's advantage. "Together" is a well-studied, understated example of subtle funk, pinning looping vocal mantras against quiet drums and an almost-silent, soulful bassline.
It would be remiss, however, to not mention the decision to sneak one additional track ("Trust Me") onto the vinyl edition of Stay / True and another ("And Now") on the digital. Moves like this are an industry standard, and an understood one, but the entirety of the EP would have benefited from having both songs in one place. Both bonus tracks greatly enhance the effectiveness of the more subdued cuts, especially "Trust Me," which starts with the EP's established instrumental shades and pushes them more stridently towards the dancefloor. That being said, Stay / True is still another step forward for Fort Romeau, and one that hopefully foreshadows a leap forward when his debut LP arrives next year.
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