Boomkat Product Review:
Romance pen an extended love note to Celine Dion, re-imagining her work through a set of post-vaporwave crybient zoners that are part OPN's timeless "Eccojams", part "Disintegration Loops” Basinski and part Malibu/DJ Lostboi on ice. Stunnnning, really.
Smelting the iconic singer’s power ballad jewels to a hazed and glistening agenda, ‘Once Upon A Time’ sees Romance dial up the sonic dry ice to enveloping levels that trigger nostalgic senses like the whiff of a former lover’s perfume or pot pourri on a saturday afternoon. In slowing Celine to a sizzurpy haze, it feels as though we’re melded deeper into her soft-focus airbrushed fantasias, homing in on eternal moments and finding new 3D depths that lurk in her Athena glossy 2D portraits.
"Have you ever been in love?" Celine asks over the weightless granular clouds of the opener - a loving erosion of memory spiraling familiarity and alienness; the sounds have a chilly Proustian effect - false nostalgia, carefully engineered. Dion's voice is pushed into slightly irregular registers - either just too low or just too high - a piano riff is padded out with reverb to edge it into a Budd-esque slo-mo dream sequence.
Each track excavates another emotion, from euphoria ('Just A Moment') and love ('Somewhere In The Silence') to heartbreaking melancholy ('Remember', 'Crying Is The Only Thing That Gets Me Through'), often smearing them into each other like oil paint. It's the AOR power ballad rendered as ambient music - relentlessly clever when you think about it, cuz both genres are often considered musical wallpaper.
'Just A Moment' is a torched n screwed nod to ye olde vaporwave classic Floral Shoppe, swapping out slippery funk and blue-eyed soul for the hi-budget sky-punching histrionics of Dion's 2002 hit 'A New Day Has Come'. 'Remember' blurs its source material to little more than throbs and syrupy waves of sibilant noise, sounding like a mid-point between Malibu/DJ Lostboi's "One Life" and Pinkcourtesyphone most glacial material. Led by campfire-warm subs and cavernous vocal snips, 'I've Been Blown by the Wind' embodies cloud rap's humid bump, coming off like a beatless approximation of Clams Casino's early run.
But it's the closer 'Crying Is The Only Thing That Gets Me Through' that has us curled up in a ball. Looping a gentle baroque refrain, Romance signals to The Caretaker's memory experiments, but views it thru a sparkling gauze of Disneyfied magic. In the wrong hands this would all have been tragically irony-pilled nonsense, but Romance are Celine Dion devotees, and their passion oozes thru the album's every pore. There's a generous quality to these treatments that isolates the most magical moments from Dion's canon, and presents it completely without cynicism. It's a sprinkle of fairy dust we didn't realise we needed.