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.
An interplay between the ‘real’ song and a degraded copy is used to great effect on Don’t Wake Dad, where the loop channel-hops between different permutations for the first minute or so. Many samples are also pitch-shifted or tempo-shifted, like the drum loop in the relatively brief title track.
The highlight of the album comes early on in Wear Me Down, a groovy yet melancholy house track with the anguished refrain “how could something so hurtful wear me down?”. Wobbly chords are sidechained, ducking the hit of a 4×4 kickdrum that is soon adorned with syncopated toms and shaking hi-hats, and it is bleak moments like this that also recall Burial’s gloomy take on club culture.
The sound design is consistently on point, but the recurring themes of the album – cerebral pads, bustling rhythms, lo-fi sounds – can become a bit cloying through repetition. Ross (actually an alias of Felix Clary Weatherall, since you ask) does provide some variety with the trippy ambience of Back Into Space, which features a sound collage and enthralling synth layers, and in the context of the album this side of Ross’ production feels like an neglected avenue that could have provided more balance.
With Family Portrait Ross From Friends (or Dr Geller as he prefers to be called) confirms enviable production skills that were already displayed on hype-building 12” releases, but is missing some songwriting nous that would have lifted the album up and made it a more consistently engaging listen.
* – No, not really, he’s actually called Felix Clary Weatherall. Apologies if the joke passed you by. We tried.