One of the more skilled young practitioners of deep house, Fort Romeau, returns with a new single and forthcoming album that showcase his growing craft. His achievement might be hard to notice at first, as he works in the sub-genre of house music least concerned with novelty or catchiness — a formula that admittedly can sound ‘all the same’ to the uninitiated.
Since its earliest flourishings in late 1980s Chicago, deep house has been one of the headiest and blackest of house music styles, drawing upon the nuanced chromaticism and meditative focus of jazz alongside the spiritual ecstasy of gospel music. The latter doesn’t mean the screaming melismas of “diva house,” though. Often entirely instrumental, deep house works via an understated, almost tuneless repetition of complex chords and a tempo that’s fairly slow for house music. It’s one of the more minimalist stripes of dance music, wedding the delicate melancholy of minimal techno and ambient music to the machinic soul of a grainy four-on-the-floor.
House music has recently been recycling the sounds of the 90s, giving deep house something of a revival. This can worry old heads like me, who came to deep house not for the bright-white youth worship of today’s EDM festivals but the reverent dancefloor communion best cultivated in smaller urban clubs. Fort Romeau gives us hope, no matter how unlikely his profile. Young and London-based, this kid Michael Greene could be chasing the glory associated with big-room DJs. Instead, he shows a keen appreciation of the music’s history and the humble, almost monastic pursuit of its creativity. On the single “Insides” Fort Romeau unveils his newest trick, the strategic deployment of a simple, brassy keyboard refrain; it’s hardly a revolution in house-music sounds, but the skill comes with carefully manipulating its contrast in texture, level and impact to the subdued backing track. Really, it’s the kind of thing that can make a deep-house dancefloor go wild.
The level of attention and patience that Fort Romeau’s music rewards means, among other things, that his recordings are also well suited to full-length albums heard in car stereos and on computer speakers. So get on this, and look for his upcoming second album, also called Insides.
Insides comes out March 31 on Ghostly International.