Romare – Projections (Ninja Tune, 2015)
I’ve been procrastinating writing this post for a week now and it’s not for a lack of things to say. On the contrary, Romare’s first full-length ‘Projections’ has had me listening with excitement since a day or two after in came out on the music institution that is Ninja Tune.
The other day I was thinking about what makes a great electronic music release. With dance music, The Tune seems to be the star – singles get played, Shazamed, endorsed by DJs, put on Top 10 lists, remixed to oblivion, re-released, edited, extended, refreshed, you name it. A lot of these tunes are great, masterfully produced, deserving of the attention and very, very enjoyable to listen to.
Creating full-length albums though is a different story. Can you make 10 equally tune-y tracks for one project? Is it feasible to do so – financially, creatively? Do you balance between limelight stealers and album fillers? Do you keep the style consistent throughout the whole thing or do you introduce different sounds? All options have many pluses and minuses.
So it’s no wonder that when a great dance/electronic music full-length album comes along, it’s a celebrated event. An album that ticks all of the boxes – ironically, boxes that seem to be impossible to define to begin with. It’s an album that feels right. Listening to it makes sense. It’s an entity with an identity.
Back in December we passionately recommended Romare’s first release on Ninja Tune ‘Roots/Pusherman’ and talked a little about the British producer’s influences, namely African-American culture and history which he even studied academically.
It would’ve been easy to slip into straightforward homage territory when dealing with such an extensive and powerful inspiration source but Romare’s strength is not only in avoiding that, but completely eradicating any potential of it going there.
Whether it’s drawing upon heavy-hitting traditional spirituals (‘Motherless Child’) or referencing disco-era gay activism (‘Rainbow’), whether it’s Nina Simone’s voice prompings us: ‘Whatever happens, just breath with me/ Whatever happens, just keep your eyes on me/It will be all right’ (‘Nina’s Charm’) or James Brown beckoning with ‘Baby, baby, baby…’ (‘Lover Man’), in Romare’s production the music is the star, the story is elaborate, the influences are clear but the interpretation is entirely new and original.
I see the online cynics have already started talking about cultural appropriation and in response to that I only have Theo Parrish to quote:
‘All music is black music, all of it – anything you have ever heard – has African roots. Any musician from any culture knows this, whether they admit it or not. Millions of artistic waves have reverberated across the world and back in call and response. The attempt to capture, imitate, package and sell them at any given moment is the foolish attempt of those who should just watch and enjoy, to do what they simply cannot. That cheapens the efforts of those dedicating their lives to catching a reverberating frequency and expanding on it. These artists are plentiful and cross time, gender and geographical location.’
I think it’s safe to say Romare is one of the latter.
I would like to congratulate myself for not once using the words ‘conceptual’ and ‘journey’.
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