There’s been a recent penchant for young men making heritage house with potentially ironic names, like DJ Boring (unless he’s being deadly serious his tunes are supposed to drill down into your consciousness), DJ Seinfeld and Ross From Friends. The latter released his debut album, Family Portrait on 27th July via the Brainfeeder label.
If that inanely chipper theme tune by The Rembrandts has already started orbiting your cranium torturously, then console yourself with the merciful fact that you’re not thinking about that cat-related dirge by Phoebe from Friends or thinking about that dubious dancing on Bruce Springsteen‘s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ video involving a young Monica from Friends. The link between a hapless 1990s US sitcom character and being a 2018 UK electronic music producer may not seem immediately strong. Yet the more you listen to Family Portrait, the more you realise that this realm of ambient dance suits the attention to nerdy detail that the association with everyone’s second-favourite palaeontologist suggests.
It’s easy, if you’re of that age where the decades have flown by, to forget that the last-ever new Friends was screened fourteen years ago. Next year marks twenty-five years from when the show started. So the moniker adopted by Felix Clary Weatherall, Ross From Friends, gives a knowingly retrospective nod. Before you get overly excited, neither the Weatherall nor the Clary in his name is linked to the musician renowned in the ’90s for his mixing nor the comedian renowned in the ’90s for his stirring.
The 12 tracks on this album are the end product of two years of careful perfectionism, apparently involving many a 24-hour day in refining sonic layers. Such a gradual labour of love is unsurprising when you consider that the whole thing is an aural ‘portrait’ of his father and mother, a representation of when they met. Weatherall’s father fixed upon a European DJ tour, with no fixed itinerary, just the desire to plug in his decks wherever people would let him around continental Europe. His mother, a friend of a friend, ended up part of the merry entourage, documenting it on VHS. The rest is history.
Unsurprisingly, Family Portrait sounds distinctly like a lot of dance music from decades of yore, equally inspired by the Balearic or The Hacienda. It’s ideal for summer 2018. RFF’s even ordered a heatwave into which he can launch the album. ‘Thank God I’m A Lizard’ ought to get you on the dance floor, only possible in thirty degrees plus if you are part reptilian. It’s a hypnotic combination of Underworld, Orbital, The X Files, some sort of plainsong and the occasional plaintive Clanger. ‘Wear Me Down’ has the distinct feeling of A Guy Called Gerald, whereas ‘The Beginning’, which is the final track, obviously, has the curiously interwoven qualities of sounding like incidental music from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off one minute and like a religious incantation the next.
The beginning being the end ultimately sums up where this album is at. The last three songs amount to 18 minutes and in each song you find yourself going round in a loop of key motifs. The central perk of this quality is that it can pleasantly alter your state of consciousness. Alternatively, you might just zone out. Family Portrait could provide the ideal soundtrack for your sweltering summer staycation, or it could be good music to distract you while you’re ploughing through a pile of ironing, putting the ‘house’ into housework.
Family Portrait is out on 27th July through Brainfeeder.