Following on from two strong EP releases on Black Acre, expectations would only be exceedingly high for Romare’s debut LP, released via Ninja Tune. Thankfully, the London-based beatsmith delivered the goods with the eleven-track release, entitled ‘Projections’. Taking titular and artistic inspiration from cut-n-paste artist, Romare Bearden, he uses many of the same techniques in his mosaic-style process of composition. A collage method is used in Romare’s work to marry live instrumentation and samples which span numerous periods and genres, paying a modern-day homage to all his inspirations, whilst simultaneously being entirely original.
The infectious, sample-heavy grooves of ‘Projections’ also work to convey a catalogue of movements and topics of culture, mainly those of African-American heritage, which reflect back on Romare’s academic studies at University. Examples can be found in the spiritual ‘Motherless Child’, the snippet of Nina Simone mixed with a dislocated gospel choir melody in ‘Nina’s Chant’, ‘Rainbow’s tribute to Gay Disco culture in 1970s America, and – of course – the Malcolm X sample mixed with African drums in ‘Roots’.
Musical highlights of the album include the funk-infected ‘Motherless Child’ for its clever and gradual transformations throughout, ‘Lover Man’s lopsided and almost incomplete groove that swings carelessly back and forth, the dreamy synths and beat-heavy rhythm of ‘Rainbow’ which automatically brings a smile, and ‘Roots’ for the clearest exploration of Romare’s capability of more dancefloor-ready sounds. In essence, Romare has created a sound with genuine versatility. It’s rare that music is suitable for headphones, as well as easily playable on home speakers, and also able to hold its own on a club sound system. In fact, it is a telltale sign of music that doesn’t hide behind or rely on other aspects to improve it.
After the success of both ‘Meditations on Afrocentrism’ and ‘Love Songs: Part One’, the reimagined collage technique of Romare’s music still retains its relevance in ‘Projections’, as well as its cultural appropriation. It is a sound which is informed by pre-existing scenes and genres, yet totally authentic as a new whole. A difficult feat to pull off, but Romare has done so convincingly once again.
‘Projections’ is out now on Ninja Tune. Buy it here.