Ross From Friends (aka Felix Clary Weatherall) has produced a deeply personal first album. All the atmospheric hallmarks of his previous releases (compressed drums sounds, tape flutter and white noise) are found, except for the noticeable absence of the vocal sampling that led earlier hits like “Talk to Me You’ll Understand” and “John Cage”.
In place of those retro vocal hooks, we now find Felix’s own voice – usually mashed up and processed beyond verbal comprehension.
This is a great move. Felix’s vocals provide a focus point for the album’s hazy beats to congeal around, and, because they are his own and not from, e.g. a cheesy ‘80s ballad, release him from much of the criticism surrounding lo-fi house music. (E.g. this how-to video.)
The result is a set of songs that is less obviously ready for the dancefloor, but no less engaging than previous releases. “Family Portrait” is private and thoughtful. Its quiet strength is managing to achieve a deep sense of nostalgic emotion while avoiding self-indulgence or the tired cliches of the genre.
This is the first Ross From Friends output to be released on the Brainfeeder label. The name, “Family Portrait”, nods towards one of the album’s main sources of inspiration: Felix parents. Their party-bus tour of Europe, complete with video tape recordings, have been turned into the music video for album single “Pale Blue Dot”.
But the name also nods towards one of the album’s closest sonic cousins: Maribou State’s breakthrough release, “Portraits”. Ross From Friends, of course, features on “Portraits Remixed”, where his treatment of Maribou State’s song “Wallflower” is perhaps among the least divergent from the the original material remixed in the album.
Photography by Fabrice Bourgelle