All That Must Be (Domino)
If it’s true that British electronic writer/producer George FitzGerald lets the guest vocalists here – Tracey Thorn, Hudson Scott, Lil Silva – do the major emotional work of his second album, the evidence would come in the first single from this album, Burns, which was rather emotionally opaque as it overlaid a disco spirit over a titillating Chicago electronica bed.
However, even accepting that doesn’t mean he’s abdicated responsibility, or emotions, elsewhere. As FitzGerald showed on his highly engaging debut, Fading Love, the one-time Berlin resident has a way with open-hearted as much as open-sourced material.
This has only been enhanced, deepened actually, on All That Must Be – itself a title that sets its stall at the junction of acceptance/grief/happiness/hope and has its multifaceted elements represented in the opening swell-and-push of Two Moons Under.
Exhibit A for the broader FitzGerald argument could well be Outgrown, where Bonobo contributes but the real star is the sense of your mood’s elevator going up in a smooth rise that reveals vistas rather than walls, skies rather than hallways.
The message is easy enough in its ping-ponging keyboards and simple hi-hat pattern, that become the welcome mat for the deeper sonics and vibrating piano, and their surprise guest of harp glissando: this is about openness, trusting in freedom, and air.
And then at the four minute mark, just when you think you’ve levelled out, the tempo kicks up from cruise to measured run and that air is rushing by you, ruffling the hair on your arms. Trust has been rewarded.
Another vocal-free track, Frieda, starts at near-techno – the ambience suggestive of laser-cut nights; the rhythm pushy enough to set you in action but not enough to demand more than you have – and lets itself go in a sigh of release.
It is a tale of satisfaction that works as a kind of flipside to Roll Back, where Lil Silva’s almost nonchalant delivery hesitates to pull you down and serves instead to raise a question in its simple repetition: do regrets matter, really, if you sail past them?
That’s a question best answered by the burnished velvet tones of Tracey Thorn in Half-Light (Night Version), a song about being alone with someone that feels like a song to keep you company when you’re alone without that someone.
It’s also a song which could keep company with Thorn’s own new album, Record, or Missing from latter-day Everything But The Girl: an insistent flow, a pick-me-up rhythm, a sad-not-sad melody and the ever-present feel of watching a night slide by your half open window.
The only complaint I have about Half-Light (Night Version) is that at 3 minutes 13 it is over far too soon, even if The Echo Forgets, which comes immediately on its tail and runs with a 1970s German atmosphere (Moroder meets Kraftwerk) feels like the gear-change that might have extended Half-Light into a full casting hands-in-the-air finale.
In fact the album ends with Passing Trains (also clocking in at 3 minutes 13, suggesting remixers may have a lot of fun in coming months) which pulls away from the station/album like the last ride home, or the song to mop up the last people at the club.
Light is beckoning beyond the door, bodies are tired but not still, minds are fuzzy but not dulled, mood at ease but yet still buoyant. Oh very nice indeed.