by Joe Gutierrez (@jgutierz_)
If the first sound we hear from New York quartet Freind’s Lemon EP is a Bunsen burner beneath a boiling beaker, the magic which follows is its wildest concoction bubbling over the edge. Unveiled here are five tracks evidently conceived in some underground laboratory- tones, melodies, time signatures, sentences, all frankensteined together and brought to life. As the floating computer desk on the EP’s cover suggests, that which lies within defies gravity. What we’ve got here is mystery. Mystery and power. Freind is a band best heard whilst in motion and unafraid.
Kick drum and snare crack open a wall on “Chemtrails”, unleashing the gnarliest space riff you’ll ever hear. Jet exhaust scorching the bright blue sky, dripping with the high-pitched hum of an angel or two. It all drops out and gives way to a jittery sweet verse, short bursts of syrupy words, likely detailing a sub-plot prophecy of some long lost sci-fi flick. The synth sounds like sporadically blinking green, yellow, and red lights. Bass rumbles on, startled, an overheating mainframe. Relief comes in the form of “The Pleasure Is All Mine”, its origin a slow off-kilter pop ditty with topsy-turvy chord changes and dreamy monologue. Subtly growing in its intensity as the drums get heavier and more complicated, the track explodes into something nuclear, flip flopping back and forth ‘til it finally erupts into the guttural and savage howl of a horror movie finale.
“Loops” is a back-float ride down a cosmic river. The first time you try wrapping your head around the Milky Way. Sometimes a skipping record sounds just right, and you beg whoever’s in the room with you to let it malfunction a little bit longer. This ethereal jam gives off a gleam like moon-cave stalactites, a cherub’s lullaby over dusty attic drum machine, kinetically spirited keyboard, and a voice from the future reiterating incantation. The upbeat head-bobbin’ “Bebop” shoots you off on a misty morning journey where you wonder if everything around you’s really real. Springs and wires bounce and tangle. It’s a toy-store before and after the earthquake. The spirit of Trish Keenan lingers here, and any hole in your heart left after her passing gets sewn closed a bit. “EarthBound” punctuates Lemon EP perfectly, fluctuating between ghost-story singsong and fuzzy guitar damage before slipping off into bossa nova oblivion. This sweet little tropicalia outro gives the impression of stepping off a rollercoaster or waking from a dream. Right here is where you catch your breath.
Freind’s stunning 2016 debut delivers a sonic recipe for astral projection. Some foggy vision injected into the subconscious by the strangest of strangers. The band is an exciting addition to New York’s blossoming cluster of out-there acts like Mega Bog and Operator. Freind has provided us with a record that feels like an arrival and a departure, even while you’re sitting still. Now listen in and lift off.