British producer Ross From Friends took the hype machine by storm last year with his brand of “lo-fi house” – a waterlogged take on dance music that’s chill, wistful, strange, insular and fun. Unlike the harsher, grimier works on outsider labels like Opal Tapes and L.I.E.S., RFF worked more like the dance music equivalent of Ariel Pink or Mac DeMarco: never pretending pop bliss needs to be equated with high production values.
However, beyond a few hypnogogic parts – most notably a lo-fi-to-hi-fi fakeout in the first 30 seconds – his debut album sounds less like something befitting an imagined cassette or a warped VHS, and more like its actual, purchasable 2018 state: a 2xLP on Flying Lotus’ forward-thinking Brainfeeder label. The move is noticeable and organic, RFF proving himself a master of big gooey textures. Now making big, speaker-filling, experimental dance music like Flume or Flying Lotus, Ross has to cull the muffled thump from your memory’s edge a different way. The tone is music darker, the textures are much more defined, the beats are often quite huge, but the melodies/instruments/moods are familiar to anyone who listens to music on the periphery of nostalgia: vaporwave, Actress, Lee Gamble, etc.
Both “Thank God I’m a Lizard” and “Don’t Wake Dad” feature some pretty notable saxophone cheese. “Back Into Space” sounds like TV flipping in the pre-digital era, and the title track is basicallyu a full on hi-definition vaporwave jam. Other tunes sound like the echoes of beloved music rattling around, like Nineties R&B (“The Knife”), dance-pop (“Pale Blue Dot”) or the ambient parts of Nine Inch Nails songs (“Project Cybersyn”).