Ross From Friends – ‘Family Portrait’ review

‘Family Portraits’ paints a vibrant and touching picture of what dance music can mean to people

Felix Weatherall’s affiliation with music – in particular dance – was formed at an early age. In the ‘90s, his father headed out to mainland Europe to tour the continent with a big ‘ol soundsystem, finding techno to be a common language as he set up parties wherever he could. It was on this trip that Weatherall’s father met his mother, who joined him for the ride and filmed the beautiful and slightly chaotic touring carnival. It’s all documented in the excellent and moving video for recent single, ‘Pale Blue Dot’.

This album is no legacy-indulging nostalgia trip, though. It’s one that weaves memories and snapshots from that time into a very modern product. The Ross From Friends moniker first arrived in 2015, with the EP ‘Alex Brown’, but Weatherall’s musicianship has far outstripped any gimmick the name may have suggested. In fact, he shows a lot more personality and heart than David Schwimmer’s character in ‘90s sitcom Friends ever did. Speaking to Mixmag in 2017, the producer explained the named: “It’s just fun to have this silly act going on, but there is a bit of that in my true personality, and I suppose it shines through in the character of Ross From Friends.”

Weatherall, raised in Colchester, Essex, has been prolific both in the studio and on the road for several years now. His live show, which incorporates a full band has been wowing crowds at festivals this summer and last year he dropped three sizeable projects that built on his lo-fi house calling card. His most recent release, April’s ‘Aphelion’ EP and its highlight ‘John Cage’ pushed his songwriting abilities even further.

‘Family Portrait’ is the culmination of a remarkable journey for the artist. Second track ‘Thank God I’m A Lizard’ pulsates with banging beats, while the beach-side soundscapes sketched earlier in his career are finished with flair, particularly on the shimmering ‘Don’t Wake Dad’. Although there are no sizeable vocal contributions, flashes of personality can be found in more serene moments like in ‘Back To Space’ and the album’s title track.

As a whole, the record side-steps assumptions and rules related to the notion of genres. Scattered drum beats meet soothing horns on ‘Wear Me Down’ and the warped vocals on ‘The Knife’ make for a sometimes unsettling, but always highly original listen. Most importantly, ‘Family Portrait’ packs that innate connection your mind and body should feel when allowing it to succumb to the hedonistic power of dance music. There are no dull moments, but if there’s even a brief drop in intensity, it should only be used to reflect on the energy you probably just felt. 

Now, it only seems right to round up the gear, pack up your records and hit the road. This wonderful record will keep us company all the way. The bus leaves at 8:30 sharp. Don’t be late.