Fort Romeau – Attack Magazine

Cin Cin label owner Michael Greene aka Fort Romeau has recently released his LP, Beings of Light. After nearly seven years, he’s back with a full-length and somewhat spiritual album that is filled with colourful synths and heavy basslines that pulls, twists and contorts in various directions.

From avid vinyl collecting to DJing and growing into an acclaimed musician, Fort Romeau has released on a plethora of labels, from Ghostly International, Permanent Vacations, Phantasy Sound to Running Back. His music has appeared on collections from Cocoon, Mule Musiq, Correspondant and he has played on BBC Radio One Essential Mix.

In Beings of lightRomeau’s initial inspiration stemmed from multidisciplinary artist Steven Arnold’s 1984 photograph Power of Grace, which is also the album art and name of the album’s third track. Romeau commented in regard to the photograph, “it’s transcendent in the most potent and direct manner, imagination untethered by material, elegance without riches. Imagination always wins over resource.” Romeau transposed this idea into Beings of Lightwhich expresses spatial ambiguity, is contemplative, reflective and carves a world for the listener’s imagination to freely unravel.

Romeau is set to appear at The Pickle Factory on the 19th of February for a special All Night Long session, and will also be appearing alongside Kiwi at the Color Factory on the 20th of February for a day-long show.

Fort Romeau

Untitled IV

I think this was one of the first tracks that I made when I started putting together the ideas for a new LP. I was experimenting with a different way to sequence samples, nothing groundbreaking but instead of chopping up the voice in the way I normally would, I loaded a longer sample and then was modulating the playback points in the sample to make the overall melody. After that, it was just straight into my old SDE2000 delay unit and that was it really.

I paired with some tough sub rolling bass to contrast the sweetness of the melody and then built the outro section with horn and string sounds. I was listening to the last 2 Talk Talk records a lot around the time of making this album and so wanted to bring in some more live, natural sounds into the whole sound world of the record.

The Truth

This one is all about the pad texture and the bassline, it’s just one of those loops that click for me and I would happily listen to for ages. There are some small vocal fragments and a little bit of fender Rhodes added until the end section which kind envelops the whole arrangement.

A key theme of the record is transcendence and this section kind of evoked for me the sound of dying or at least ascending into the unknown. I added some Hammond B3 organ sounds to reinforce that celestial connotation.

Power Of Grace

I wanted to create more of an enharmonic sound world for this track, my natural inclination can be towards being too direct and literal with the harmonic relationship between sounds in my tracks. I tend to gravitate towards simple strong melodies in a defined key centre.

With this track, I wanted to inhabit a far more ambiguous space, it’s unclear exactly what the emotion is. When the chords come in towards the end and we hear the spoken word vocals more clearly, a more reflective mood takes over, echoing the vocal.

I’m kind of obsessed with this way of adding harmony into music, it’s what Goldie called the “butterfly effect”, these hovering shards of pads/sound/harmony that float over the music. It might not be immediately apparent from listening to my music, but drum ‘n’ bass and jungle is a huge influence on my music in that respect.

Spotlights

Another big Moog bassline! Following on from the track above, I really like to let the bass do a lot of the heavy lifting with the melody and let the other sounds just kind of hover over. It’s kind of trance-inducing to me and is just how I like to hear things put together often. The other big feature of this track is the brass, which has a bit more of an obviously sampled flavor than in the opening track. I was kind of thinking about Orbital and The Brown Album when I made this sound.

Then there’s the sort of crazy breakdown where it all goes a bit mad, lots of squiggly Buchla effects and just a sense of time being totally lost and disorientated. That’s until it snaps back in with the beat and the deep sub-bass, trying to marry a kind of toughness and elegance together, directness and experimentalism – it’s all about the contrasts for me!

(In The) Rain

This whole track is one big modular patch, built-in software on a program called VCV Rack. It’s lots of samplers and effects and sequencers all patched together and would be a very big and expensive system in the hardware world! I recorded a few passes and then edited it down into something a little more coherent.

Again it’s trying to find this emotional space that is ambiguous and contemplative, allowing space for interpretation and for the mind to make its own associations. In that regard, I think it’s the most strictly “ambient” piece I’ve made.

Ramona

From the freedom and spontaneity of the last track, we’re back into something much more arranged and constructed. This track has a seemingly simple drum beat and groove, but it actually has quite a lot going on, lots of very subtle modulations and shifts to all the sounds, everything is always moving, even if only very slightly.

The voice from the first song on the album reappears again, in a new form, more alien and time-stretched, creating a slightly unnerving atmosphere and adding tension. With the more club-focused cuts, it’s important to balance the functional needs of the sound system and DJs by adding detail and interesting harmonic and textural ideas.

The whole vibe is very mysterious until we reach the bridge section when the CS-80 style brass patches take over and establish a much clearer sense of space and harmony. I’m always trying to find that balance between direct and ambiguous, clean and textured, power and softness.

Porta Coeli

Some might be tempted to call this the “ambient” track of the LP, although unlike before there are no generative elements here, it’s tighter, loopier and more obstinate. There’s a sense in which this track just ascends endlessly into the unknown.

Beings Of Light

The final resting place of the album. More celestial Juno and organ chords wash over like a blinding light, then the simple human pulse of the kick drum anchors it down on earth.

It slowly ebbs and builds back up again with an arpeggio that pierces the clouds of sound and noise, a very simple direct ARP Oddysey sound, until we’re left with gas clouds of Juno pads and then the piano refrain which concludes the album, which is probably one of my favorite moments on the record.

Buy Fort Romeau’s Beings of Light on Bandcamp.

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