Ross from Friends

Family Portrait

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    8
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Ross from Friends may have won the silly name sweepstakes of the late-2010s underground house scene, but like his peers DJ Seinfeld and DJ Boring, the quality of his music transcends the gimmickry. Family Portrait is his proper debut full-length, and it builds on past successes like the viral hit "Talk to Me You'll Understand" and The Outsiders (a double EP so good that it could've easily passed as a proper album), introducing new levels of complexity and emotional depth to his sound. Like his older releases, this one favors grainy textures and sentimental vocal samples, but the beats are more broken this time out, drawing from electro and new wave rather than just the evenly paced pulse of house. Additionally, while the sound quality still isn't of the highest definition, Ross' audio manipulation has become far more detailed, with numerous layers of sound to dive into, filled with submerged voices (which approach DJ Koze-level absurdity at some points) and subtle twists. On early highlight "Wear Me Down," a sublimely fuzzy melody is surrounded by an array of strange noises that stretch, echo, and bounce off of each other. At the center of all of this is an aching voice that pleads "How can something so wonderful wear me down?" First single "Project Cybersyn" focuses on a detached, whistling synth melody that seems like it's shooting through space before getting whisked away by a smooth jazz sax riff that blossoms out of nowhere. "Pale Blue Dot" is a similar mixture of eerie voices and distant melodies set to a punchy beat, and a bath of effects that seem far more considered than the usual slapped-on tape hiss employed by most lo-fi house producers. Tracks like "R.A.T.S." and "The Beginning" are nearly overwhelming collages of choppy electro beats and vocals altered so that the lyrics are incomprehensible and all that remain are the surging feelings. Family Portrait is an uncommonly original album, keeping listeners guessing while making a significant, sometimes unexpected emotional impact.

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