On his effectively moody debut album, British producer FitzGerald inadvertently invents "emo-house".
Among all the different compartments and subgenres of electronic dance music, is there one called emo-house? If not, than George FitzGerald has inadvertently invented it. The British producer's debut album, Fading Love, is full of the steady rhythms and clean, melodic synthesizer lines that are typical of tech house. But it also has a raw, earnest emotional impact that sets FitzGerald apart from most of his peers. Fading Love is plenty danceable. First and foremost, though, it's a breakup album.
FitzGerald has brought in two vocalists, Boxed In (aka Oli Bayston) and Lawrence Hart, to express his words. Both have smooth, stately baritones which convey the sadness and frustration of a failed relationship without going over the top. As befits this type of endeavor, the 10-song album works as a single, interrelated song cycle. The overall vibe is somber and moody, but not exactly sullen. In fact, opener "About Time" is gently upbeat and catchy, taking its time to rise up from some panoramic synthesizer chords. When Bayston sings about a couple who have "left our words on ice", he sounds resigned but not defeated.
Fading Love peaks early with the excellent "Full Circle". Chiming, interlocking synths provide a tense, foreboding atmosphere as well as a considerable hook. Bayston does some sighing and emoting before the synths settle into a melancholy staccato progression. "Don't wanna start a fight", Bayston says, and he sounds exactly like someone who has reached the point of exhaustion where a fight is simply not worth the upside any more. All the while, those synths flinch in empathy. It's a great moment where real emotion and purely good music trump any genre labels.
FitzGerald's general approach is to take a minimal, unobtrusive 4/4 beat and slowly vary the saturation levels of the various synth pulses and chords. It's an approach that suits the material well. When Fading Love does try to kick up a little dancefloor dust on "Crystallize", the descending bassline and sharper synths sound a bit forced. Calling a song, even an instrumental, "Knife to the Heart" is a bit heavy-handed as well.
FitzGerald's lyrics are minimal yet effective, complementing the music nicely. By the end of its quick sub-40 minute running time, Fading Love's uniformity has begun to work against it a bit, as the arpeggios and subtle beats become familiar, especially across some nice but ultimately secondary instrumentals.
Even by the closing "The Waiting", FitzGerald isn't totally ready to walk away. "If you're asking for help / I can't watch you go to pieces", he admits. Breaking up is hard to do, but that simple yet powerful sentiment rarely shows up in convincing fashion in electronic dance music. Fading Love combines emotional complexity with accomplished, evocative production to prove an exception to that rule.