Ross From Friends Expands His Lo-Fi Electronic Sound on Debut, 'Family Portrait'

Ross From Friends' Family Portrait is an album you can easily disappear into from one of electronic music's most thrilling new talents.

Family Portrait
Ross From Friends


27 July 2018

Coming off the back of two game-changing releases in 2017's The Outsiders and this year's Aphelion EPs, there is a palpable level of excitement around "lo-fi" house pioneer, Ross from Friend's (aka Felix Clary Weatherall) debut album. Let's get this out of the way very early on. Yes, he releases records under a hilarious name (it is genuinely still funny. Even Googling it makes me chuckle), and in publicity photos, he looks a little like my Auntie Kath (who is a lovely woman by the way). However, make no mistake, Weatherall is making some of the most vibrant, dynamic and exciting new electronic music around and Family Portrait delivers on every level.

The lo-fi house elements that brought him so much early attention are still present but, on Family Portrait, he has admirably expanded his musical palette to include fidgety IDM, soothing ambient sounds, and tech-house percussion. Weatherall seems committed to a holistic method of working that highlights his strengths. He meticulously layers beats, sounds, and ideas that, on their own, shouldn't work but in the context of his work compliment each other beautifully.

"Happy Birthday Nick" kicks things off like a 1980s buddy cop movie that gradually warps into a futuristic mix of bleeps and glitches. The excellent "Thank God I'm a Lizard" perfectly demonstrates what he brings to the dancefloor. As the song title is repeated, seemingly by a malevolent creature from a B-movie horror film, Weatherall pulls together a measured house tune from propulsive, determined beats, distant sax, and a chittering synth line like two twittering doves. The track encapsulates everything that is so riveting about his approach. The playful mix of humor, the meticulous attention to detail and the manipulation of sounds to create incessant, lasting hooks.

"Wear Me Down" continues in the same vein as Weatherall flies glitchy IDM sounds over crackling beats, all held together by soaring, looped vocal samples. Featuring reverb-soaked drums and woozy, atmospheric synths, "The Knife" feels like the forgotten soundtrack to a cult 1980s computer game. Whilst clearly his style, Weatherall cleverly interlaces a guiding vocal sample to provoke a more affecting reaction. The swaggering lo-fi house of "Project Cybersyn" harks back to his early work, built, as it is, around a muted, strangely familiar synth riff that courts your eardrums like an old flame. Before things become too comfortable, a rush of wildly weaving saxophone cuts through with glorious clarity.

The altogether pacier "Pale Blue Dot" opens with a flurry of pads offset by calming snippets of sound that seem to ape the gentle undulation of birdsong. Once again, it is those squelchy, high pitch synth lines that ricochet into the distance that truly stick. Weatherall seems to have an endless supply of these synth hooks in his arsenal that he deploys flawlessly throughout the album. Synth lines that gently curl their way around your subconscious suddenly coming into sharp focus at various points during your day.

"Back Into Space" opens with some tongue in cheek sexiness as Weatherall pitches his vocals to breathlessly intone "Oh Yeah / I love the way you move" before transforming into an ambient, sci-fi piece with a TV flicking between channels as it gently drifts through the cosmos. On the twitchy house meets 1090s IDM of "Parallel Sequence" Weatherall whips up an anxious sense of momentum as if he is laying the musical tracks as the song is in hurtles down the railroad. It shows a mature artist trusting his instincts but never losing sight of the importance of the song.

That is further evidenced on "R.A.T.S" with layers of running hi-hat, crisp driving percussion and cool synths bridged by moans of spiritual adoration as if lost in ancient, Eastern cities. So much so that you can imagine the Adhan emanating from towering minarets. The opening track from Aphelion, "Don't Wake Dad" is a welcome inclusion to the second half of the album. It's mix of sunny euphoria and soft bluesy rock is counterbalanced by closer, "The Beginning", which mixes devotional chanting with echoing percussion, distorted vocals and chiming glockenspiel.

For those who have been a keen follower of Weatherall's output to date, Family Portrait is everything you could want and more. It is a further step up from his Aphelion EP but with plenty to appeal to those who fell in love with the lo-fi elements of his early work. It's an album you can easily disappear into from one of electronic music's most thrilling new talents.





'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.


Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.


Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.


Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.


British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.


Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".


In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.


Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.


Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.


Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.


Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.


'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.


Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.


From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.


Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.


Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.