GENTLE FRIENDLY are a duo from London, comprised of David Morris and Richard Manber, who have a penchant for circular melodies, tidal fuzz and rapid junked rhythms. With an austere setup of Casio keyboard, vocals and drums (sometimes electronic) the band push against the pop boundary, trapping their songs on record like a continuous sun-warped field recording.
2009 saw Gentle Friendly release their debut album 'Ride Slow' to critical acclaim - Uncut considered "No Age, Ponytail and Health as spiritual kin", whilst Pitchfork even cited Clipse and Lil Wayne as influences on the band. Since then Gentle Friendly have remodeled and rebuilt their sound into a stronger beast at their home studio called Deep House. Bringing us up to date, new EP 'Rrrrrrr' is the first fruit to fall from the tree, with its seven tracks washing the band's insistent prism punk alongside more tender, filmic textures.
Kiwi Chang Cane | Rrrr
UTR051 | LP / Digital | 7 tracks, 21 mins | Buy
'Rrrrrrr' as its name suggests uses repetition and a certain minimalist touch to create a wonderfully poignant wide-eyed record. But why Rrrrrrr? Rrrrrrr can be the sound of an engine idling, a death rattle, the buzz and howl under the influence of heat. The EP is standing in for a reality, away from words and closer to feeling, following instincts and worshipping the detail. Bittersweet in its tendency to mix more ecstatic moments alongside some contemplative pools, 'Rrrrrrr' shows how the band's emotional range has grown since their debut.
Opener "Kiwi Chang Cane" leaps out of a nature sleep, the song swimming with resonance whilst its drums beat and tumble a path through the sidestepping static rush. The song races onwards, with gleeful ascending keyboards reaching out in a questlike fashion akin to the song's Shaolin monk namesake's attempt to find his lost brother. Meanwhile "Speakers" finds Gentle Friendly in ballad form with gattling gun snare hits and David's most heartfelt vocal yet. "Put your arm around the speaker... it's like dancing without moving" he sings into the relative space of the track, moving focus squarely on a sense of resigned simplicity.
'Rrrrrrr' is a development for the band in terms of sound and production as much as lyrical scope and understanding. While their self-acknowledged influences (Arthur Russell, Bruce Springsteen, Top 40 hip-hop) are detectable, this record showcases Gentle Friendly as a band who have found their own language, drawing on nostalgia and ritual in equal measure, whilst continuing the tradition of English eccentricity and popular song.
"Rome Rome" sees Gentle Friendly at their most immediate, vacillating on overheard music David sings "On the radio she said you should put on a ring, if you like it, if you like it, turn it off". His metronomic vocal delivery is unstoppable, the percussive treatment dicing itself into each spare beat, creating a feeling of transcendence and of galloping rush. In comparison, "Love Scenes" is a positively nocturnal shift with its clubby house kick, spectral synth soup and panning drum shuffles. Seamlessly blending into "Rrride Slow" with its pitched down vocal gurgle and channelled depths of caveman techno, the record enjoys throwing organic nature against distanced electronics in an almost meditative way.
Overlapping rhythms, looped mixtapes and revisited lyrical themes make rebirth an important touchstone for this release. This is perhaps best distilled with the track entitled "Rrrrr". Stammering repetition finds a home in swirls of chorus-inflected atmosphere, chiming bells and shaken metal. There's a feeling of inevitability in the slow melodic cycling and tribal drumming, the whole effect is one of focusing inwards and devotional crescendo. Gentle Friendly are masters of aching sentiment, overheard static and enraptured awakening, and with this record they turn the quiet repeated actions of our everyday into a blissful all-consuming wave of saturation.
R.I.P Static | Clean Breaker
UTR031 | Digipack CD / LP | 15 tracks, 35 mins | Buy
Using a wide palette of sound that successfully captures the intensity of their live performance, Gentle Friendly have just completed their debut album. 'Ride Slow' is an adventurous record, which surpasses the band's lo-fi origins and demonstrates an uplifting emotional range.
Thematically a fatalist document, 'Ride Slow' records snapshots of feeling, of conversation, which overlap and phase through different songs. While their self-acknowledged influences (Arthur Russell, Bruce Springsteen, Top 40 hip-hop) are detectable, this album showcases Gentle Friendly as a band who have found their own language, drawing on nostalgia and ritual in equal measure, whilst continuing the tradition of English eccentricity and popular song.
'Ride Slow' works exceptionally well as a continuous piece of music, the band choosing to work with London producer Twins to mix the album through its rounds of echo drench and repetitive rapture. The record glides seamlessly between songs of euphoric warmth to broken stammering rhythms to crushing walls of atmosphere.
Tracks like "Real Fighters", "Sleng Teng" and "Clean Breaker" burst with energy, careering along with thunderous intent, in stark contrast to the album's more reflective moments like the dreamy "Lover's Rock" and the ambient wash and vocal cycling of "R.I.P. Static".
Identifiable lyrics have an honesty and directness, and even when the music swells become formidable, the clarity of thought never gets buried. 'Ride Slow' is an album about secrets and consequences, about breaking points and endless horizons of possibility. It is their ability to communicate the obscured - to hold a torch up to illuminate the wilderness - that makes Gentle Friendly such an interesting band and 'Ride Slow' such a compelling record.