Beings of Light – In praise of Fort Romeau’s third LP

There’s a moment of sweet serenity right in the middle of Fort Romeau’s latest album, Beings of Light. (In the) Rain takes a moment in the midst of an LP hurtling towards the centre of the dance floor. It’s a stark moment of repose in an album determined to evoke some romantic image of the club. In a recent interview with Time Sweeney’s Beats in Space, the artists says New York and specifically the city’s clubbing history played an important part in the inspiration behind the record, but there’s so much more that informs this record and the result than just a single era in club music history. 

 Fort Romeau breaks largely with the “Detroit” sound that underpinned his first two LPs, Kingdoms and Insides, and slides into what can only be described as some nostalgic reverie in sound. It’s a dreamscape, surreal in some aspects, but remaining functional in design. As the last wispy trails of the title track disappear into quietude, there’s very little tangible memory that existed at all, and only a feeling and a picture remains. 

Beings of Light finds Fort Romeau (Mike Greene) picking up where he left off with his 2019 EP “Dweller on the Threshold.” As if to signal his intention, “Dweller on the threshold” proved a tipping point for Greene. Whereas the EPs leading up to the last, found the artist exploring elements of Trance, Rave and classic House, Dweller marked a return to familiar ground and a transition to Fort Romeau’s third and most recent LP, Beings of Light.

EPs Heaven and Earth, Fantasia, The Mirror and FWD NRG saw Fort Romeau ascending large build ups and higher energies as he seemed to plot some course towards the trends that have been informing the dance floor of late. 

At the fundamental level his music remained unchanged, with a key ear for melodies and a deep groove staying central to his work, but as new plateaus were established in the upper regions of those bubbling melodies, it was a huge stride into a different direction for the English artist with Heaven and Earth at the most extreme end of the other side.

Beings Of Light finds Greene on more familiar territory however, with the focus turning back to the rhythm section and a sound more perpendicular to Fort Romeau’s early records “The thing I like about doing 12”s is you can try on a lot of different acts musically, bring in different sounds, and kind of play with things a bit, “Greene told Dancewax recently.  “With an LP,” he continues “I really like to narrow down on the core sound of what I’m interested in.”  

Venturing far and wide from the trodden path through the last few EPs, Beings of Light reaffirms Greene’s statement in a record analogous to Insides and Kingdom. There’s a clear trajectory towards elements of trance, progressive and psychedelic music through the EPs that precede the LP, which fall away during the opening bars of Untitled IV and mark a slight return to Fort Romeau’s distinctive sound. 

“With this LP I wanted there to be only as many sounds as were absolutely required, rather than filling the space with too much stuff,” Greene told Stamp the wax, which seems like a stark contrast to what he said about Heaven and Earth in Torture the artist a year earlier: “For me it’s merely aesthetic in that I’m trying to reference certain signifiers that are attached to trance, progressive or psychedelic music.” The sounds between the LP and the EP are in stark contrast. The bold melodic movements of Heaven and Earth give way to a brooding minimalism emerging through repetitive rhythms.

Beyond the sound of these two records however, there is something that has remained consistent in Greene’s music and that’s the element of imagery that underpins his music. It’s not often as literal as something like the cover of Beings of Light, but it’s always there as he explained to Time Sweeney during a beats in space interview: “Whenever I work on  any music, I always have an image in mind. I find it very difficult to hear music without having an image to marry it with.”

For Insides, it was a blown up photograph of a piece of blue velvet in reference to the David Lynch film, while on Heaven and Earth it was less tabgible as a reference to the “spiritual” tropes of elements of Trance and progressive House.

“An image can act as an anchoring point,” for Greene and throughout an EP and a LP it’s something he tries to express sonically, albeit in very opaque terms. For Beings of Light he turned to  Steven Arnold’s Power of grace for inspiration. The Salvador Dali Protege and surrealist photographer Steven Arnold’s 1984 work, offered the incentive for Green to “create something beautiful and otherworldly.” according to the BiS interview.

“Greene’s new LP Beings Of Light,” says Annabel Ross, “is… the most palpable, fulsome and cohesive expression yet of the connection between his music and the art that inspires it,” in a glimmering review for Resident Advisor and she’s not wrong.  

Green’s use of stark textures and the less-is-more attitude is more than coincidence in terms of the relationship to the work that inspired it. Emboldened by Arnold’s “kind of punk methodology, that’s very much self-reliant,” Greene sought to create something similar in sound where the  “imagination is important.” Although relying on   “very simple production processes,” the results on Beings of Light are a lot more sophisticated than the “punk methodology” that encouraged the record. 

Records like Insides and Kingdom appear more punk-ish in their brutish determination to be dance floor records. Beings of Light is still a dance floor record, but there’s a restraint there that evokes comparison to masters of the club-album format like Roman Flügel. 

“I think that I wanted to bring in some different influences, but still try and be myself,” Greene told Dancewax and in his use of imagery, if not sound, Greene manages to achieve this on his latest LP. ”I’m probably more inspired by images, movies and art than music, particularly electronic music because I find it really counter productive to compare what I’m doing to anyone else,” he explained in more depth on Stamp the wax. Visual aides offer the opportunity to explore these different influences in a way that avoids the music sounding like a pastiche of another artist or a trope of the genre. 

Beings of Light is not so much an evolution or a change in Fort Romeau’s music, but a new pallet of influences informing leading to something different from the artist’s catalogue. It seems he’s been on a road of new discovery over the past few years, with the EPs and now an LP, giving us something divergent from the Fort Romeau sound we’ve come to know in the past. 

It arrives at Beings of Light, fully realised from concept to delivery and a refreshing new take on the Fort Romeau sound. Influenced by imagery and mood, it’s more than a dance floor record while it retains the producer’s connection to the dance floor as a DJ. It continues to explore new realms within the Fort Romeau aesthetic much like the EPs just before it, but as an LP it’s more refined and concise than the EPs.

We’re not sure if we’re listening to a new direction for Fort Romeau, but it definitely seems like Greene is exploring new territory that might lead to new avenues for the producer going forward. Fort Romeau appears to be on the cusp of something with Beings of Light, and we’ll have to wait and see how it will unfold.