Jacques Greene's 'Fantasy' Captures the Formless Drift of Lockdown Life

BY Michael Di GennaroPublished Jan 27, 2022

When detailing his newest EP, Fantasy, on Instagram, Montreal producer and DJ Jacques Greene explained that the inspiration behind it was a desire to create a feeling of escapism from the pandemic nightmare the world has been mired in for the last two years. Greene has always been an artist who has produced music with a specific purpose: his early work as part of the early '10s class of bedroom producers looked to innovate by fusing house, techno, R&B and hip-hop; his mid-2010s run of tracks was designed for the clubs he played; and his most recent full-length, 2019's Dawn Chorus, was created with the idea of soundtracking the part of the night that comes after the parties, festivals and nights on the town are over. Now, Canada is at a point where the nights out dancing and the memories made afterward are gone — a two-year drought that has clearly affected Greene's approach to where and why his music is played.

Part of why Greene has always had success translating his music into nightlife is because of where he lives. He credits Montreal rave godfather Tiga with inspiring his love of electronic music and DJing, and many of his generation's biggest electronic stars — Grimes, Chromeo, A-Trak, Kaytranada — hail from the same city as him. Montreal might be the closest thing to a truly European experience that you can have across all of North America, with its cobblestone historical district, seemingly endless number of cafes and restaurants, and clubs that open at midnight and close near noon. It's for those reasons that Montreal has had a particularly significant cultural struggle with COVID. It is a place defined by eating, drinking and dancing with one another, in a time where all of those activities have become a health risk to the point where they have to be prohibited.

Fantasy can be seen as Greene's answer to the activities that replaced clubbing in the COVID era. In the same way that looking forward to a night out made the long, gruelling work week seem tolerable, daydreaming about the time when the pandemic is a thing of the past has surely kept many people sane and hopeful since the first shutdown in March 2020. The EP is closer to full-on ambient music than anything Greene has released before, with his aforementioned Instagram post also noting that he was striving to make more formless and "floating" songs.

At its best, Fantasy accomplishes just that. Opener "Taurus," closer "Don't Leave" and centrepiece "Relay" all pair Greene's signature airy, sample-heavy loops with light, muted drums. These tracks achieve exactly what ambient music was created to do: compliment day-to-day activities, whether it be working, socializing, exercising or just thinking. It can be argued that Greene's music has always translated nicely for an ambient context, but where Fantasy falls short compared to the rest of his discography is that applying formlessness to a sound that is already that atmospheric can push it a bit too far in the background. Even after repeated listens, it can be tough to remember what certain songs sound like.

Compared to the hard-hitters on 2017's Feel Infinite and 2018's Fever Focus, along with the expansive scope of Dawn Chorus, the lack of fully-formed songs on Fantasy may be a disappointment for some listeners. Perhaps that's why Greene felt the need to explain his headspace when making it; though stylistically similar, the listening experience is vastly different from anything else he's ever made.

It may not be the body of work of his that is looked back on as seminal, but Fantasy is exactly the type of music that can help alleviate the stress COVID has caused the public, and in that sense, the EP succeeds in fulfilling what it sought to achieve. Greene may look to continue exploring musical formlessness and improve upon the groundwork the project sets, or he may explore completely new directions. The only thing that seems certain is that Jacques Greene will make the music that he knows the people need, whenever they need it.

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