Jacques Greene – Fantasy
Canada’s Jacques Greene is part of a generation of producers to emerge in the mid-2000’s having been raised on a diet of Aphex Twin and 90’s drum’n’bass. The result of these influences in combination with the age of Tumblr and MySpace led to the evolution of a sound that impregnated breaks and polyrhythms with a sense of pathos (see: Burial), emotional gravitas (see: Skee Mask), or sentimentality (see: Bonobo). Greene finds himself located in this lineage, though his evolution from 2014’s Phantom Vibrate (which could easily be mistaken for any one his peers today) to 2019’s utopic Dawn Chorus is evident. On that album, Greene seemed to have found his place on the family tree, combining elements of funk, house, and tech that (mostly) veered away from breakbeat bathos. For Chorus, his inspiration was more simple than profound: it was about the dancefloor. Almost working from the outside in, Greene allowed the experience and energy of the dancefloor to inform the direction of Dawn Chorus, yielding sumptuous results like the micro-techno of Stars or the Faithless flavoured acid of Night Service. For Fantasy, his latest and most significant work since Dawn Chorus, his inspiration becomes less distinct. Here, Greene finds himself encapsulated by the “The things you hear when you’re alone… this record was born out of weeks of willing a form of peace and inspiration into my surroundings.” Fantasy is mostly an exercise in remedying lockdown induced anxiety, with Greene “trying to make something that made the quiet a bit more peaceful.”
There’s an obvious shift in tonality on Fantasy from Dawn Chorus. Gone are the experimentations on groove and body moving ideations, with Greene instead shifting focus back to the pieces of reflective, emotional bass of his early days. This is not to say that this sound was ever erased from Greene’s arsenal. Rather, it was handled differently. On Dawn Chorus, pieces like Sel or Understand were dotted between the gloss of For Love, while other instances of this style have been released as standalones for Greene since 2019. This is not a bad thing, per se, but in a moment so close to Fragments or Pool, it’s impossible not to consider Greene in relation to his peers now that he’s once again playing the same aesthetic. Fantasy falls somewhere in between. Less accomplished than Pool and certainly less mawkish than Fragments, Fantasy is a collection of otherwise well crafted and feeling laden breakbeats and sub-bass. Taurus, slick and stunningly produced, opens Fantasy with a featherlight vocal refrain by Leanne Macomber (a consistent presence across the record) and slippery breakbeats that reverse into each other and surging forward like the movement of the tides. While masterly, Taurus is also Fantasy’s most referential moment. The Aphex Twin is too pungent to mask on here, and Greene doesn’t really try to do so. Memory Screen + Fantasy is more distinct, and Fantasy’s most transportive moment. Flowing from a rapturous house beat and passages of bright ambience, the track dials up the BPM in its final moment with a propulsive aria of squabbling chords. Sky River oozes along like a guided meditation, erupting into breaks every few bars before returning to cosmic ambience, while the two-step of Relay is Fantasy’s outright brightest moment. Upbeat and brimming, Relay shimmers with an arrangement of pads that fall like beams of sunlight through tree tops. On Leave Here, Greene tries his hand at Bonobo’s formula. A reminiscence laden vocal sample falls in and out of consciousness amidst bass and synths programmed to introspection, while a subtle breakbeat kicks away in the distance.
Fantasy is an otherwise beautiful record. There’s an undeniable 90’s influence to the direction of the sound here that gives it the aura of nostalgia, and plays into Greene’s exploration of finding comfort in isolation. It makes sense that when left alone, we’d lapse back to memories of the past to bring us solace. In a sense, that’s what Greene does here but it’s at the sacrifice of straying from the distinct path he had found for himself on Dawn Chorus. Perhaps Greene hasn’t so much left the path than he has stopped to take a look back at where he’s come from. Fantasy feels most like a break in his journey, a minute of reflection before what we hope will be a leap toward the space Greene has found for himself in a landscape abundant with lookalikes.
Listen to Taurus from Fantasy below.
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