Release Date: Jul 27, 2018
Record label: Brainfeeder
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
Ross from Friends may have won the silly name sweepstakes of the late-2010s underground house scene, but like his peers DJ Seinfeld and DJ Boring, the quality of his music transcends the gimmickry. Family Portrait is his proper debut full-length, and it builds on past successes like the viral hit "Talk to Me You'll Understand" and The Outsiders (a double EP so good that it could've easily passed as a proper album), introducing new levels of complexity and emotional depth to his sound. Like his older releases, this one favors grainy textures and sentimental vocal samples, but the beats are more broken this time out, drawing from electro and new wave rather than just the evenly paced pulse of house.
'Family Portraits' paints a vibrant and touching picture of what dance music can mean to people Felix Weatherall's affiliation with music - in particular dance - was formed at an early age. In the '90s, his father headed out to mainland Europe to tour the continent with a big 'ol soundsystem, finding techno to be a common language as he set up parties wherever he could. It was on this trip that Weatherall's father met his mother, who joined him for the ride and filmed the beautiful and slightly chaotic touring carnival.
Felix Cleary Weatherall's music as Ross From Friends is all about the feels. The clammy synths and soulful vocal samples of early tracks like "Donny Blew It" were often catchy and stirring. His arrangements, though, weren't always as strong as his ear for a sentimental melody, so his tracks could sometimes feel rudimentary. But his work, often compared with other lo-fi house artists like DJ Boring and DJ Seinfeld, has clearly struck a chord--one 2016 track, "Talk To Me You'll Understand," has over four million views on YouTube.
Ross From Friends has taken a similar turn with his debut album Family Portrait. But where Vynehall brought out the photos, Ross From Friends has a whole stack of VHS home movies to watch with you. From the opening notes of "Happy Birthday Nick", which sound like channel ident music from the late '80s before kicking into discordant samples of Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two", it feels like stepping into a time machine.
Earlier this month, Weatherall released the video for “Pale Blue Dot,” which features an edited version of a 1990 video travelogue taken by his mother, depicting her exploits as she mingles with the rogues’ gallery of desultory English house music enthusiasts, of which Felix’s father was a member. (This trans-European sojourn served as the impetus for the couple’s relationship). And so for much of Family Portrait, Weatherall’s latest release under the name Ross from Friends, the London-based DJ reckons with matters of nostalgia and artistic authenticity — two issues that were bound to arise, given that his big break came via a democratized video-sharing platform and that his very existence springs from the chance encounter of two wayward techno-heads in the 90s — while often overcoming both, yet never entirely vanquishing either.
Early in Chris Marker's freewheeling 1983 film Sans Soleil, an unseen narrator muses: "I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember. We rewrite memory much as history is rewritten." In that light, lo-fi house's curious way rewriting memories of dance music makes more sense.
Ross From Friends, real name David Schwimmer*, loves decay. He loves analog decay, tape hiss floating above and high-end cut off, as well as digital decay, transients blunted and synth overtones drowning in a low quality mp3 file. These types of sound flow through Family Portrait, and they create a feeling of nostalgia not dissimilar to Boards Of Canada's faded textures.