I have a few spare minutes so here comes a controversial statement and I’m just going to throw it out there. ‘I firmly believe Ross From Friends‘ 2018 album ‘Family Portraits’ is one of the best electronic albums of all time‘. Okay, it’s out there. My head is certainly a mile above the parapet here.
It’s a wildcard of a nomination to some but the more I’ve delved into this record, the more it just grew. Now, it’s become my go-to album and I need to offload some of my passion for it. The record is so brave and experimental, he even put The Beginning at the end. Steeped in manic drum patterns, outrageously crafty sampling and his own distinct brand of production, Family Portrait is the ultimate journey into the space-age brain of Felix Weatherall.
The record begins with a dusty intro, a unique happy birthday message to a close friend (Happy Birthday Nick)- a wash of metallic percussion, wavy synths and unnerving distortion. This leads us head on into our first encounter with Weatherall’s ability to compose dance music to sway a dance floor steadily on Thank God I’m a Lizard. Although early on in the collection, it is instantly bookmarked as a highlight. The weird repeated whispering lyrics add an additional layer of strange to set the scene.
Wear Me Down comes next with some Maribou State-esque lyrics (it’s most likely the wonderful Grace Walker singing them) combined with some deep melodies and a profound kick. This is a track best enjoyed at high volume whilst shuffling through traffic. The Knife follows with some synth sounds that wouldn’t be out of place on a Tron soundtrack – the vocal tones on this one make it an epic enough listen. Project Cybersyn passes by in the background with some deep techno undertones and imposing bass ripples.
The title track is only a little interlude rather than a main event but it transports us at the feet of the album’s stand out moment, Pale Blue Dot. This track, when digested alongside footage of Weatherall’s parents starting raves in the 70’s, is one of the brightest tracks I’ve ever heard. If you haven’t seen the video, watch it on YouTube. They look like such great people. The highlight.
Parallel Sequence is the next track to impact, with some downtempo flavours and interestingly intriguing experimental sounds. Don’t Wake Dad settles the whole thing down again – it’s the album’s most conventional and refined song. This is my ‘walk to the train station’ song. Stride on stride, floating there. Outstanding.
As mentioned, a song titled ‘The Beginning‘ closes out the album. A fitting closing title to bring a totally unconventional and unique collection to a halt. This is not an album for those who like bog standard ABAB music. This is a wild foray, best enjoyed at high volume and during a good moment in your life. Ross From Friends may not be a household name but this album is one of the best I’ve heard. Family Portraits bends the rules, alters the normal recommended composition structures and toys with it’s listeners. A great album from a hellishly talented guy.
It may just be my own personal opinion, but I’m not afraid to state how I feel about this album. It’s right up there.
– About ‘The Sound Sniffer’ –
The Sound Sniffer is a music blog that’s still only a baby – Founded in early 2019 by Kevin Coakley, a music writer and ghostwriter. ‘The Sound Sniffer’ also runs gigs and showcases in London since Oct 2019. The showcases are picked from artists found in the blog’s submission inbox.
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