British multi-instrumentalist Romare has always been a road warrior. Since 2017, he's showcased his experimental stylings and improvisational maneuvers at more than 150 shows across the world, including his debut at downtown Miami haunt Floyd last October. It was Romare's first standalone show in Miami after his III Points performance in 2017.
Inside Floyd's dimly lit confines, Romare scurried across his extensive setup of samplers, sequencers, and synthesizers, leaving onlookers slack-jawed. Instead of dropping full tracks from his extensive catalog, he arranged elements of his records on the fly, careening between house, jazz, blues, disco, psychedelia, and African-inspired beats.
Romare — real name Archie Fairhurst — comes by his peripatetic lifestyle honestly, thanks to a nomadic upbringing spent shuffling around Asia with his parents. But after his headlining U.S. tour last fall, Romare relocated from his longtime London home to the English countryside and started a family. Now that he has settled down in one place and ushered in a new chapter of calming familiarity, it comes as no surprise that he named his third studio album, out this Friday on Ninja Tune, Home.
"Home to me is about family," Romare explains. "So even though I grew up in different countries and my parents moved around a lot, wherever we were was home to me, as opposed to where my parents might have been born or where I was born.
"I think putting down roots stimulated a sort of spirituality for me, because when you put down roots, you sort of become really attached to all kinds of different facets of life in that area. And for me, it's a village in England, in the countryside, and with a small amount of people, lots of nature, and a lot of peace and quiet."
Home is Romare's third album release on Ninja Tune and his first full-length album since 2016's critically acclaimed Love Songs: Part Two. While Love Songs centered on romantic motifs, Home is driven by themes of belonging, identity, and spirituality.
"The idea of home, and what you consider to be home, and where you feel comfortable, are definitely relevant right now when people are housebound," Romare says. "Having a sense of home is quite a positive, secure feeling, and I think there's quite a lot of optimism in the sound of the songs, even though they're quite stretched out and DJ-suited."
The nine-track album explores a robust spectrum of textural sounds, from galvanizing house and soulful cinematics to throbbing basslines and stirring percussive work. Romare calls Home his most dance-floor-friendly offering yet — odd timing, admittedly, given how the global pandemic has kneecapped the concert industry.
"[Before the pandemic], when I played the songs quite loudly to a large group of people, it had the effect that I was wanting, which was for everyone to experience something quite pure and spiritually uplifting, just themselves and the music, which is an ancient thing," he explains.
Home touts Romare's signature cut-and-paste studio methods, taking cues from his moniker's muse, the famed American collagist Romare Bearden. Possessing his own dynamic sonic palette, which ranges from traditional Irish folk and country to classical and American gospel, Romare's patchwork productions are fueled by unusual samples, like a field recording from his time gigging in India, or a snippet from Elvis Presley's gospel repertoire.
"I was introduced to [Presley's] more religious music a few years ago and found it really peaceful and enjoyable, and there's an uplifting feeling about it," Romare says. "There's a connection between the uplifting feeling of home with the uplifting aspects of spiritual and gospel music, and it's had an impact on the album. A lot of the singing in American gospel music is very deep and powerful and moving."
While sample-based productions have always been the bedrock of Romare's studio work, the last few years have seen the exploratory polymath incorporate more unconventional instruments into his music-making process. Home features a retro organ he found in a local charity shop and a drum kit that he bought third-hand when he was 15, as well as his mother's accordion and his dad's 12-string guitar. Romare used both of his parents' vintage instruments to create the album's titular track and closing song.
"I borrowed my mother's accordion, which is quite old; it's almost my age," Romare says, laughing. "I picked it up and gave it a squeeze which came out as a sort of interesting chord, so I looped it up to create the song's musical theme. I played the lead riff on that song with my dad's 12-string guitar, which I fixed up about a year ago after years of humanity made the neck warp. I tuned it up, and that's the melody. So, the melody is with my dad's instrument, and the chords are with my mom's instrument, and so I called it 'Home.'"
Romare has been enjoying his time at his pastoral home, relaxing with his young family, and playing around with his new unicycle. But he's also holed up in his beloved home studio, having already completed a handful of songs for his forthcoming fourth album, and basking in the ability to produce in a stationary setting for an extended time.
"Having time off from gigs means you can really build momentum with songs," he admits.
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Aside from beat-making, he's focusing most of his efforts on evolving his live show. The dexterous multi-instrumentalist is building upon the extensive performance setup he brought to Miami last fall, bringing the guitar back into the mix, adding new compressor's effects units, and experimenting with signal flow.
"[The new live set] is quite exciting, because it combines improvisation while staying true to some of the singles on the record," he says beaming.
Romare says quarantine will give him ample time to rehearse his live show into proper shape, and he looks forward to the future when he'll be able to play Home as he originally intended.
"The album is basically dance-floor music and meant to be played loudly for lots of people in a listening space," he says. "It's great fun doing gigs, a room full of people enjoying your music and selections, and you're enjoying it, and just the connection that music makes between people is fantastic."