Album of the Week: Ross From Friends – Family Portrait

Ross from Friends (Felix Weatherall) might have his tongue firmly in his cheek when he’s being interviewed, especially when talking about the origins of his chosen artistic alias, but when it comes to music, he’s nothing if not serious. In one of the most anticipated albums of the year, Ross From Friends went from a DJ and producer of niche form of House music to an international musical sensation.

Since “Talk to me, You’ll understand” his second release, he’s been on an upward directory, facilitated by the Internet and Lo-Fi, the musical label that derfines his music as a funny DJ name, distorted hats and meme culture. Wether it’s David Cameron humming his breakout hit through his resignation speech or the video of the precocious youngster for “Gettin it Done”, the Internet has played a major role in bringing Ross From Friends to the wider world, but it’s always been more than just a meme, a funny DJ name or a tag and from behind all the layers of irony and jokes a very sincere debut album emerges called Family Portrait.

Family Portrait finds Weatherall perpetuating the strain of House music he’s developed on EPs for Lobster Theremin and Magicwire for a more involved listening experience. Off kilter samples, mutating into alien atmospheres, play provocatively against the backdrop of sinewy digital percussion punching holes through cloaks of synthesised pads.

Weatherall’s musical palette reaches further than it’s ever done before, incorporating elements of breakbeat, garage and R&B in its DNA, while moulding it perfectly for the album of format. It’s a Ross From Friends work made for introspective listening moments on a set of headphones on an old iPod, and while it remains as playful and energising like his dance floor workouts, there’s also an invisible calm to the album.

Filler tracks like “Back into Space” and the more reserved pieces like “The Knife” set a melancholic mood, while “Thank God I’m a Lizard” and “the beginning” – which obviously comes at the end – maintains the Ross from Friends connection. Weatherall is not exactly charting new ground for his sound on Family Portrait, but merely contextualising it in the same way he’s done with the live show in the traditional club format or the guitar and saxophone framed within electronic music dialect.

Family Portrait has subverted the natural shelf-life of similar Internet sensations and established Ross from Friends as more than the sum of its parts.