A third instalment of Fred Gibson’s diary-esque series continues the concept of an artistic journal in audio form
Balham-born producer/songwriter Fred Gibson lives something of a double life. As FRED he was involved in writing and producing last year’s biggest-selling song – labelmate Ed Sheeran‘s Bad Habits – and finds his name in the credits of countless other mainstream tunes. But Fred again.. is his alias of choice for solo electronica. The third instalment in his Actual Life series continues the concept of an artistic journal, but fails to convey the intended poignancy.
Gibson sources a variety of vocals, some catchy and some mundane, with Delilah (pull me out of this) displaying enjoyable synergy between an earworm loop and bumpy house beats. Danielle (smile on my face) also succeeds in anchoring the rubbery groove with auto-tuned lyrics from 070 Shake (“sometimes I wanna feel the pain / you said you were done / but you’re over here naked / in the middle of the day”), but Four Tet’s presence on co-production probably explains the quality of these two tracks.
Elsewhere the bag of tricks runs dangerously low: Kammy (like i do) sounds a lot like Kelly (end of a nightmare), which sounds a lot like his remix of Future’s Turn On The Lights from earlier this year, and they all sound pretty bland. Clara (the night is dark) delivers a poor Moby imitation with the religious tone of the sample, and the voice memos, while they may be personally meaningful and may have inspired the record, are very much a case of ‘tell, don’t show’ when accompanied by this material.
Pop music relies more than ever on collaboration these days, with Gibson’s previous highlights (Rita Ora’s Let You Love Me, MIST and Fredo’s So High) featuring him as part of a cast. But on Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9 2022) the stage is deserted, the spotlight proves too bright, and the music suffers dearly as a result.