Gentle Friendly

Ride Slow

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Though they released an EP and a single before their first album, Gentle Friendly's newness as a band shows in Ride Slow's abundant energy -- and occasional lack of focus. It's almost hard to believe that the band is just David Morris and Daniel Boyle, based on the sheer amount of sound they pack into these songs. Gentle Friendly's fondness for textural layers of noise earned them comparisons to Animal Collective's hypnotic pop and No Age's distortion-laden melodies, but the London-based duo take a sleeker and more eclectic approach than their American contemporaries. Instead of coating everything in faux-primitive hiss, they're selective about their fuzz, particularly on the instantly, insistently catchy “RIP Static,” where spacious synth drones evoke Broadcast, and the chopped-up beats and Morris' clipped vocals hint at a fondness for hip-hop. They're even more mercurial on the aptly named “Clean Breaker,” which switches from a thick blanket of distortion to a chiming psychedelic reverie. This playfulness percolates throughout Ride Slow, but it’s often tempered by an intriguing melancholy. “Lovers Rock” begins with a triumphant saxophone fanfare, but the cautionary mantra “Put your house in order” gives the song an unexpected twinge. Likewise, “VincentT”’s high-energy drumming makes the song’s moody atmosphere that much more urgent. The band also plays tug-of-war with their experimental and pop instincts -- most spectacularly on “No 808 On”’s daring dynamic shifts -- though their fondness for hooks and melodies usually wins in the end. They leave their most abstract moments for Ride Slow’s numerous interludes, which range from synth expanses to noisy beats. Though they’re not as satisfying as Gentle Friendly’s full-fledged songs, they do add to the album’s charming free-for-all vibe. Despite, and sometimes even because of its unevenness, Ride Slow is a bracing debut from a band developing a fascinating sound.

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