“Lo-fi house” pioneer, Ross From Friends and Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label seem like a match made in left-field electronic heaven. Witness, a label that has one of the most diverse and compelling rosters of any electronic label around today and an artist who, over his last few releases, has steadily marked himself out as one of the most intriguing new talents around.
Felix Clary Weatherall has been making music under the Ross From Friends moniker for the last five years, but it was with his 2017 release, The Outsiders, that people started to sit up and take notice. Eschewing many of the quirks of his earlier work, it saw him finding greater focus. It was a tighter, more sure-footed release that delivered on his early promise but retained a keen sense of fun.
More polished and less obviously “lo-fi” than previous releases, Aphelion takes the blueprint of The Outsiders and adds a bit more Brainfeeder unpredictable fizz, making it his most adventurous and best release yet.
From the outset, Weatherall sounds invigorated by the move to his new home. Opener “Don’t Wake Dad” floats house beats over a smooth R&B groove. As the fuzzy euphoria builds, Weatherall summons a hazy, female vocal sample, a bluesy, clean guitar riff, and some woozy, soft-rock sax to join in the fun. It’s the kind of track that would be hard-pressed to raise a smile from even his staunchest critics.
On “John Cage” Weatherall brings in a friend of his to freestyle a goof of a relaxation tape before the track morphs into an’ 80s hip-hop tune layered with house beats, shimmering keys and drawled rapping. As the song flits and jerks, he catches the listener completely off-guard by pulling the brake, bringing the track to a complete halt before revving back up again. It’s indicative of an artist unafraid to take an unexpected left turn and one who sounds like he’s having an absolute blast doing so.
The second half of the EP is more distinctly house. On “There’s a Hole in My Head”, the rush of polyrhythmic beats contrasts perfectly with the smooth, rolling synths a la Underworld. Weatherall avoids overstuffing the track, instead allowing the melodies to be swept up and carried by the breezy groove like a leaf blowing in the wind. Loose-limbed with a deep-set groove, “March” keeps the tempo raised as Weatherall puts his own spin on classic house, mixing in a little dubstep and techno for good measure.
Aphelion is a colourful, psychedelic mix of sound with beats and breaks gradually merging together in a warm, hazy huddle. Weatherall empties a carrier bag of ideas over every track but nothing ever sounds overstuffed or forced as he moves from goofy hip-hop one minute to bubbling house the next. It’s his most eclectic and intriguing work to date and shows that the union with Brainfeeder is a marriage built to last.