- It should come as no surprise that George FitzGerald went through a stylistic transformation on his first full-length. Since emerging in 2010 with a 12-inch of hybridized dubstep for Hotflush, the Berlin-based Londoner hasn't been much interested in carving out just one sound for himself. His records jump between bass-centric strains of house and techno—from the sample-heavy UK garage of "Shackled" to techy, big-room anthems like "Child" and "I Can Tell (By The Way You Move)"—but always with a few recognizable traits, such as downcast melodies, radiant pads and vocal textures. He focused almost exclusively on those ideas when he wrote Fading Love, an elegant, heartbroken album that wraps its dance floor influence in thick pop overtones.
In a recent interview with XLR8R, FitzGerald commented on the rapidly spreading influence of dance music, saying, "It's no longer about actually being in the club, hearing the music in the club and dancing to it. The music just hints at the motif. In my own way, I'm kind of doing the same thing now." And he's mostly right. It's unlikely you'll end up hearing much of Fading Love in DJ sets, but instrumental slow-burners like "Knife To The Heart" and "Your Two Faces" prove the record has residual affection for house and garage. The quietly dramatic "Call It Love (If You Want To)" rides a similar wavelength, harnessing layers of synth and Lawrence Hart's somber croon to buff its impassioned movements. Those breathy lines aren't exactly hooks, though, and FitzGerald treats them no differently than the vocal samples in, say, "Needs You" or "Magnetic." Keeping with tradition, Hart's words are meant as a muse and a mantra, not a message. Fading Love may take FitzGerald out of the club, but it doesn't take the club out of FitzGerald.
The dance-pop trappings of Disclosure and their ilk do surface on the album, and those songs will likely be the most contentious for longtime fans. Lead singles "Full Circle" and "Crystalize" are full-on radio fare, complete with verse-chorus structures, charismatic singers and confident, immediate arrangements. But it's all run through FitzGerald's milky-grey prism, so what we end up with is a bit more mysterious and nuanced than something like "Latch." You've got to hand it to him, actually—he nails this sound. Take album closer "The Waiting," a pressurized ballad built on soft-thumping kicks and filtered synths that rattle and fizz. It spends most of its four-plus minutes swelling to the point just before it bubbles over, but FitzGerald holds back, never giving us the hands-in-the-air drop that feels inevitable. So when Hart repeats, "I've been waiting for too long for you," his unrequited love couldn't be more palpable.
At the end of his XLR8R interview, FitzGerald outlined a few issues he has with being on the road, though he ultimately points out how liberating it can be once "people stop bothering you and let you do your thing." The sentiment also rings true of his headspace on Fading Love: freeing himself of the club's expectations, FitzGerald can fully embrace his personal influences now more than ever. And somehow those shadowy synth-pop milieus and emotive vocals have helped him better define his strengths. There's a graceful tenderness to each melodic phrase and a permeating atmosphere that exudes fragility—uncommon qualities for most dance floors, to be sure. As unexpected as it may seem, Fading Love is an accomplishment in craft and songwriting. Perhaps more significant is that it could conceivably be the first full realization of what FitzGerald has wanted to express with dance music since the beginning.
01. About Time
02. Full Circle
03. Knife To The Heart
04. Call It Love (If You Want To)
05. Beginning At The End
07. Your Two Faces
10. The Waiting