If the EDM scene had a category akin to indie rock within its many subgenres, the London-born producer Archie Fairhurst would be certainly be that category’s biggest star. Fairhurst performs under the moniker Romare, a name taken in tribute to Romare Bearden, the midcentury American artist well-renowned for his colorful and often times eccentric collages of African American musicians.
Working in much the same way that Romare the elder’s paint and paper collages did to capture the spirit of African American musicians visually, the younger Romare’s work uses collages of sound, many taken from the African American musicians his namesake documented. Romare doesn’t treat his samples lightly – using them as many others would for some trite artistic effect. On the contrary Romare squeezes every last drop of meaning he can from the wide range of samples that he uses, borrowing not only from music, but documentary sound bytes too. Romare’s samples are not plucked from the tree simply because they sound “cool,” and none of them are particularly catchy either, as they generally are in the works of so many EDM producers. This is precisely because Romare is not interested in making catchy songs. Rather, his interest lies in making art that you can dance to. And on his Ninja Tune debut Projections, Romare has done just that.
Projections lets its intended tone be known from the outset as it opens with “Nina’s Charm” on which there is a loop of singer Nina Simone’s voice saying “Whatever happens everything will be alright. Whatever happens just, keep your eyes on me,” while in the background handclaps and an African tribal chorus provides a musical platform. From this point Romare moves us along into world of jazzy beats and slow, soothing accordion synths with “Work Song.” The song pushes its way along in this fashion, with a looped sample of an old work song, and then suddenly explodes into a burst of upbeat, jazzy guitar riffs and piano rhythms, transforming it into a dance song. Romare uses this device of piecing together what many others would see as scraps to make something completely whole and beautiful, as he does so well on “Roots” combining snippets of looped documentary voices and grunts that act to accentuate the rather mainstay drumbeats and keyboards which provide the musical element of the song. This is true even on simple songs like the mellow, moving “Jimmy’s Lament” and the trippy “Lover Man.” Both tracks seem to exist more to showcase what Romare is trying to accomplish as an artist, rather than as another EDM producer.
Like his namesake before him, Romare has managed his medium to its penultimate potential. Projections isn’t so much an album, in the way an album usually contains songs, but rather Projections is a combination of sounds and richly layered textures. Like collage, each piece is selected to serve a purpose, to provide meaning to bigger picture. Projections acts in this way well, with every sample, loop, and beat working in tandem to maximum effect.