The apparently relentless release schedule on Ninja Tunes continues apace with this contribution from Romare. Archie Fairhurst has taken inspiration from collage artist Romare Bearden to come up with both his production alias and a style of making music. This debut album is hotly anticipated, therefore the pressure to turn in something special could have been crushing in less confident hands.
Romare’s debut release on Ninja ‘Roots’ – created quite a buzz, it features here for the benefit of those that missed it previously. An epic in every sense, it starts out with a slightly off kilter dubby percussion vibe before unfolding into an ecstatic appreciation of dancing and club music. The fear is that this could be a one hit album, so incredible is Roots with it Malcolm X sample and life afirming keys.
Fears of a one hit wonder are overcome pretty quickly. ‘Rainbow’ for example, is a lovely deep almost garage sounding house groover that will get as much club play as Roots. Even from the get go on ‘Nina’s Charm’ there is restrained excitement with the teasing opener that assures ‘It will be alright’ almost pre-empting the worry of those hoping for an almighty album.
The quality across the whole of ‘Projections’ is pretty consistent. There is variation in pace, with touches of jazz, hip hop, dub, soul as well as the deep house and afrocentric elements that underpin the album. It is difficult to find comparison with others as this stands quite separate from a lot of the music being put out, though some of the more reflective jazzier tracks bring to mind St Germain at his best.
In its standing as a pure ‘artist concept’ type release it is a decidedly Ninja Tune album. Fans of the Golf Channel label will find much to enjoy here as will those impatient for a Floating Points album. ‘Roots’ is colossal, but elsewhere tracks such as ‘Prison Blues’ and ‘Jimmy’s Lament’ show deftness of touch as well as an ability to get down and party.
Romare is exploring his interests in African – American culture across this album, weaving samples and sounds across the tracks resulting in a fairly unique overall final result. This falls somewhere in between club tracks, artistic sound collage, experimentalism and hedonism. Whilst that may sound slightly disjointed, Fairhurst really brings it together into a cohesive unit that manages to excite, suprise and reward as you play the album again and again.
As I was listening I felt that this was almost the kind of thing Burial would produce if he spent less time on night buses in rainy inner cities and more time in the sunshine. To make light hearted comparisons does a slight disservice though, this is superb in its own right.
There are one or two moments that stop this from being a 10/10 all time classic,such as ‘Loverman’s’ ‘Baby, baby, baby’ refrain that just made me think of the late Paul McShane’s working mens club singing. That said its a small step away from being the sort of album that could have the kind of impact ‘New Forms’ or ‘Boulevard’ did in showcasing a sound. This is a special album, surely an early contender for best of 2015 lists, you should buy it.
Below is a link to a mix I put together recently, Romare’s ‘Roots’ appears around two thirds of the way in.