Released in 2013 on Black Acre, Love Songs: Part One was a brief excursion into the pangs of the heart in EP form. Sample heavy and awash with blues, soul and jazz influences, its four somewhat frenetic tracks mark the departure point for Romare's (aka Archie Fairhurst) musings on this subject matter, its combination of sultry slowness and glimpses of the dancefloor an indicator of things to come. Three years later, as a follow up to his critically acclaimed debut Projections, comes Part Two; moving away from a broad afrocentric focus that characterised his earlier work, this latest release sees Fairhurst take an introspective turn.
Love Songs is quite unmistakably thematic. Yet despite track titles evocative of the kind of cheap compilation that rears its ugly head every Valentines day, Fairhurst has managed to avoid the cringeworthy, sickly trappings that come with writing a record about love. The range of different thoughts, feelings and phases captured is impressive as he attempts to “cover all areas … from sexual urges to tender first encounters, from affairs to the questioning of one’s love.” Romantic birdsong flutters in L.U.V whilst flat keys guiltily tiptoe around My Last Affair; there’s a strut of confidence in All Night’s bassline and synths that ache and pine in Je T’aime. Perhaps the most lovesick of them all, Honey is the LP’s most understatedly gorgeous track, its combination of warming bassy drones and off-kilter whistles finding resolution in the most soulful expression of infatuation: “I look across at the smile in her lips that warm my heart and see my morning sun.”
The eccentricities of Romare’s classic sonic footprint also reign strong in the LP, particularly in stuttering rhythms and sharp, strange, and swirling synths that slice through these gooier declarations of love. With such a characteristic sound it’s difficult not to compare Love Songs with Projections; indeed earlier blues and jazz influences still pulsate through its beating heart, but the palette has also expanded into disco, psychedelia, even Irish folk music. Fairhurst has also built upon his debut’s heavy weighting of vinyl samples by producing more of the music himself; opting for a more dreamier pace, this deepening attention to techniques and detail sees him build up tension and anticipation within loops and lengthen songs, teasing out every element. Where a song ends is often in a very different place to where it starts - a testament to the creativity of the producer, keeping the listener on their toes.
Yet in its pace and slowness and theme, it’s easy to get somewhat bogged down by its plodding loved-up contemplations. It’s the more uptempo disco-twinged cuts which really bring Love Songs out of its musings and onto the dancefloor, and the grooving basslines and reverb-heavy vintage house vocals on Who Loves You?, or garage-inflected beats of Come Close to Me, are unmistakably dance-worthy. Moments like these are few and far apart, a decisive shift away from heavy rolling footwork bass in, say, The Blues (It Began in Africa) and the more stone-faced techno found in his DJ sets, but who says love is always exciting anyway?
Though a first listen might thus seem slightly underwhelming, Love Songs: Part Two is a honest and accessible record that manages to flaunt Fairhurst's talents as a whole somehow more than his previous releases would allow. Like any good relationship, to truly appreciate its creativity and complexity requires but a little time, attention, and affection.
Words: Josie Roberts