Romare

Projections

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Going by the absence of levity in the way he presents himself and his work, Archie Fairhurst evidently has an angle on appropriation that is less crass than that of countless European dance music producers (the misleadingly named Amsterdam duo Detroit Swindle, for two). Indeed, Fairhurst studied African-American visual culture and boldly, or perhaps crazily, took the name Romare -- after the exceptional artist, author, and songwriter Romare Bearden -- as a way to pay tribute and signify his own collagist method. EPs released on Black Acre in 2012 and 2013 were packaged in sleeves featuring predominantly black casts of figures like Malcolm X, Miles Davis, Pam Grier, and -- huh! -- James Ingram. One of them was titled Meditations on Afrocentrism, while another featured a track titled "Jimi & Faye, Pt. 1" that contained an interview segment from Faye Pridgeon, partner of Jimi Hendrix. Fairhurst dodged scrutiny with vital, sample-laced juke- and house-inspired productions admired by BBC DJs Gilles Peterson and Benji B, among others. Projections, Fairhurst's first album, designed more for home listening than for dancefloors, is relatively listless, sometimes torpid, and often sounds more like a project than a form of expression. Tracks like "Lover Man," "The Drifter," and "La Petite Mort," filled with obvious and obscure samples, exhaust one idea within seconds, offer little variation, and do little more than putter. As for the more active content, one of the more noteworthy tracks is "Rainbow," where some lines from a teenaged Aretha Franklin (from a session with Ray Bryant) are incompatibly placed over flimsy and tinny disco-funk. It's fitting that the album's best tracks, "Prison Blues" and "Roots," when heard from a certain distance, could be mistaken for the work of Theo Parrish and Moodymann -- producers whose commonalities with Romare Bearden are not limited to a method.

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