After releasing an album, 2017's Outside (briefly), that made it seem like the group was on their way to being the next coming of Ride, the L.A. trio Froth take a different direction on 2019's Duress. Though they worked with the same producer (Tomas Dolas) and reference the same shoegaze, noise pop, and dream pop influences, the album has a dialed-back, dressed-down approach that has more in common with the bedroom-brewed lo-fi of Duster than it does the stadium-friendly feel of Ride. On the majority of the album, guitarist/vocalist Joo-Joo Ashworth, bassist Jeremy Katz, and drummer Cameron Allen sound like they were bunkered in a laundry room, huddling around an old four-track tape machine and gently picking their way through the songs so as not to bother anyone else in the house. At least half the record is made up of quiet, sparsely populated songs like "Dialogue" and "Slow Chamber" that sound like the down sound of shoegaze minus the wall of guitars; "Catalog" is dream pop that's still dozing away peacefully (at least until the warped guitar lead comes in); and "Laurel" almost gets a head of steam going but is content to grind away happily in second gear. Throughout the songs, Ashworth sings delicately, the drums patter in the background, and the guitars hint at noise explosions but stay wrapped in blankets for the most part. A few tracks rely on drum machines and synths -- apparently the cheapest, closest-to-breaking-down models they could find. "Department Head" and "77" sound like a Krautrock band with a five-dollar budget, while "Syndrome" sounds like OMD and MBV collaborating over two tin cans and a length of string. It's clear by about the middle of the record that Duress isn't going to be the big breakthrough album one might have expected after Outside (briefly), and that's totally fine. The group's decision to pivot away from the glossy world of big-time indie rock and burrow back into the home-cooked, willfully ramshackle basement sound pays off quite well. Anything they may have lost in fidelity they make up for in imagination, any sonic power they might have left behind they gain back in immediacy, and the fact that the record sounds like it could have been made for the loose change scavenged from couch cushions just makes it more relatable. Froth may have lost some potential fans by shrinking their scale of operations, but the move allowed them to deliver a truly interesting, totally unique version of shoegaze and experimental pop.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra