FitzGerald’s latest effort sounds removed from his club origins.
For all the killer dance singles he has put out since the start of this decade, George FitzGerald has begun to prove that he excels at the album format. The England-born producer first made his name putting out garage-house records for club labels like Hotflush and Aus Music, but his 2015 debut full-length, Fading Love, saw him homing in on an introspective deep-house sound that he used to explore a relationship on thin ice. Self-exploration continues to inform his work on follow-up, All That Must Be, inspiring him to dig even deeper into his own psyche.
All That Must Be flows more freely than his debut album. The drums get muted into softer clicks and thuds, loosening the bounds that a four-on-the-floor house beat can set upon a track. Percussion also takes a backseat as FitzGerald spotlights the radiant glow of the synths. He doesn’t write a melody so much as he happens upon a sweet loop, which he then manipulates with swelling synths to raise the drama. With each track smoothly leading into the next, the record is better experienced as a full ride than a sequence of singles.
The cavernous production can sound lonely despite the inviting shimmer, and the guest singers of All That Must Be tap into this feeling. Like the producer, the vocalists stick to a reflective mood. As London singer Hudson Scott’s voice loops in “Nobody but You,” he endlessly seeks to find a comfort that only a certain person can provide. “Roll Back,” a collaboration with fellow post-dubstep producer Lil Silva, is committed to reminiscing about a past relationship. The track also finds FitzGerald exploring a new terrain, trying out skittering drums and a bursting synth breakdown—elements perhaps inspired by Lil Silva.
Rather than expanding his comfort zone, though, FitzGerald opens himself to collaboration in order to better help him achieve a singular goal. On “Outgrown,” his decision to work with Bonobo — whose after-hours boom-bap can be easily slotted alongside FitzGerald in a Chill Out playlist—suggests he’s doubling down on his sound. Articulation through his usual tools is best shown in “Half-Light (Night Version),” featuring dance-pop veteran Tracey Thorn; her weathered voice not only draws out the gloominess of the production’s downcast synths, but it also adds a layer of gravitas to her yearning, like she has been wandering in the dark for years.
The three different voices in the album are scattered throughout its vast space, and as a result, the gaps between them can make All That Must Be feel very vacant overall. FitzGerald’s latest effort already sounds removed from his club origins, more so than Fading Love. The more he turns inward with his songs, the more the record can feel distant instead of drawing in the listener. But ultimately, this detached feeling of staring into the void within his otherwise glowing deep house reflects FitzGerald’s personal exploration of inner spaces.