It's 7 AM at an afterparty in a Bushwick loft with a roof that looks like it could fold at any second. Disheveled drag queens teeter around a DJ, whose uncannily alien forehead is bathed in the soft glow of early morning light. George FitzGerald is on the dancefloor in a dark woolly sweater, bopping next to the speakers with polite enthusiasm. Despite headlining a Williamsburg nightclub earlier in the evening, he displays no trace of physical exhaustion. Nor does he reveal signs of a deeper emotional weariness he'd confessed to when we'd met earlier—a weariness that fueled his latest album, Fading Love, out this week on Domino Records.
"It's a breakup album," he announced over yogurt, granola, and a cup of green tea in a Brooklyn café a few days before his gig. You could've guessed as much from the name of the album, which laid bare its intentions to chronicle the arc of a crumbling relationship through a single transitive verb—a love that's fading but hasn't quite faded all the way. "It's quite a personal album about a relationship falling apart, because of the difficulties of being away all the time," he continued. "But it's not just about that. It's also about me falling out of love a bit with the club."
Fading Love thus functions on two levels: the personal and the musical. Many of the album's ten tracks were written after specific incidents played out over a two-year period, tracing emotional wounds turned to scars turned to memories.
Others, like "Full Circle," "Knife to the Heart," and "Beginning at the End," are more pensive—tracing heartache through sleepy bass throbs and gorgeous explosions of emotion. In FitzGerald's version of heartbreak, the bitter pill of love lost still goes down sweet. Even on the harder, techno-inflected "Your Two Faces," strobe-like synths pierce a horizon of rumbling low-end but never dig too far into despair, instead breaking into gentle waves of soothing melodies. Even if they're not about falling in love, Fading Love is still very much a collection of love songs.
This intensely intimate portrait of romantic dissolution was placed on Domino, home to artists like Animal Collective, Blood Orange, and Four Tet. Moving to the indie-focused label was a departure from FitzGerald's previous, club-focused output on house and techno imprints like Scuba's Hotflush and Will Saul's Hypercolour.
"I became very, very sick of hearing superficial dance music," FitzGerald confesses. "With everything going on in my life, it didn't seem appropriate for me to be writing music that's literally about having fun. I wanted to have an album that reminded me of a time of my life in a more explicit way."
Yet, Fading Love is still written in the language of clubbing. Despite their introspective tendencies, many tracks remain intrinsically danceable, suggesting that FitzGerald hasn't departed from the dance music world completely. Instead, his new sound occupies the grey area between headphones and clubs, indie and electronic—just like many artists populating Domino's roster, like Hot Chip, Jon Hopkins, and Four Tet. When he first signed, FitzGerald joked that the label told him, "the last album we released was Immunity by Jon Hopkins—no pressure!"
"It was a huge exercise in upping my game," he admitted.
To that end, FitzGerald set himself strict rules while making the album, including that he would and not rely on sampled vocals, and only use real instruments or physical hardware. Both rules were made with the goal of making the album sound more personal. "When you're sampling vocals no one can hear where you're from," he explained. When Oli Bayston and Lawrence Hart sing, "it's going to sound British, in a Depeche Mode, Factory Records kind of way."
As for "the analog thing," FitzGerald sighed, "I wasn't sure I was going to talk about it, because it's the sort of thing people say to show off, like using vinyl. It's bullshit, basically." But hardware has a knack for making music sound less club-driven, less polished, and more human. Their flawed tones perfectly channel the emotional decay that the album seeks to capture.
"When you use analog machines, you just hit record and you end up getting all these beautiful mistakes that end up being features of the track. The truth is, if you want a slightly less clean sound, you have to use analog."
Fading Love was also mixed on the same desk that Kraftwerk used on their first three albums. "It has this warm, 70s sound that I couldn't achieve when I was just making stuff on my laptop," he added.
Pushed to choose, FitzGerald selects "Beginning at the End" as his most personal track, and perhaps his favorite of the album. Worthy of note is the fact that it contains no lyrical content—despite his ambitions to open up his wounds for the world to share, FitzGerald ultimately remains elusive. His sweetheart goes unnamed, and the causes of their breakup remain unspecified. This suggests that ultimately, he's still an artist most at home on the electronic end of the musical landscape, preferring emotion and mood over directly conveyed meaning.
"Beginning at the End" was created at the end of Fading Love. His musical journey had come to a close at the same time that his relationship was drawing to its end. Writing the song alone in his studio, FitzGerald found that it ended up becoming the closest representation of how he was feeling. "I was very conscious that it would be the last track. I was very optimistic, but also very sad."
Fading Love is out April 27 on Domino's Double Six Records
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