Have you been growing tired of the purely pleasant sounds of indie electronic? Are you yearning for a little grit with your folk vocals? Looking for some brooding bass clarinet? I See You. Your Eyes Are Red, the most recent effort from Friend Roulette should tickle your weird little fancy.
The second album released by the Brooklyn group, I See You. Your Eyes Are Red is a theatrical journey stuffed with discordant sounds and hectic arrangements. Yet above the thumping drums and odd instrumentations, the album presents a series of floating, at times soaring, vocals and melodies. This lends the record a paradoxical effect of being both tense and relaxed, like everything is going wrong, but it’s totally fine.
The album opens with the tone-setting track “Strange Girl.” Beginning with the sound of violin, the guitar then steps in to its most frequent roll on the album, texture and background. “Strange Girl” goes on to illustrate why Friend Roulette has been called “Chamber Pop,” with the addition of clarinet and EWI (Electric Wind Instrument) sounds. The song is on the more approachable end of the spectrum for the album: a nice general crescendo, without too much weirdness.
They save that for the second track, “Dutch Master,” which readily brings to mind a nighttime carnival. But not the fun kind, the kind with lots of scary clowns that have lots of sharp teeth. Airy bits of suspense sit between jerking, shrieking hits, all the while featuring lyrics about blood, screams, and spleen ripping. While not exactly easy listening, “Dutch Master” (the second single off the record) showcases two important aspects of the album, the length of the songs and the dual percussionists. With only two songs under four minutes long, and four of them at five minutes or longer, the eight-song record is much longer than it looks. The grand style of Friend Roulette’s song writing comes out in these long songs. They often go through several changes, achieving an entirely new sound by the end of the song. This is reinforced by the band’s two drummers, who support the ambient vocals and textures with pounding, crashing rhythms.
The third track was also the first single off the record, and stands almost opposite of “Dutch Master.” “Stoned Alone” is the most consistently groovy song of the album, bringing in a bit of R&B feel with its bassline. Doubled on bass and synth, it is the backbone of the song. It takes us back a few steps closer to “approachable” before running straight back into the odd with track four, “You Drank All the Eggnog,” or as I like to call it, “Christmas on Bad Acid”: A blend of spacey synths, clarinet lines, clave grooves, and the theme from “Sleigh Ride.”
The rest of the album highlights the range and talent of Friend Roulette. “Garden Tidings” has another theatrical beginning, sounding at points like it could even be a movie score, before snapping into a St. Vincent-esque bounce. “Feed” is another highlight of the album, a slower track with lowing Bass Clarinet sounds. “Up in the Air” sports a cloud-like beginning stuffed with the ethereal imagery of the sky, before jumping into an outer-space-soul feel that would make Sun Ra proud. The album finishes on the aptly-titled “Warm Year,” a 6:44 long, pleasantly dark cool-down.
I See You. Your Eyes Are Red. is nothing if not unique. Though often sonically dissonant and aggressive, the album leaves you feeling at peace. Julia Tepper’s drifting vocals sound even more pleasant when placed above a grinding battle between the rest of the band. Sometimes sleepy, sometimes anxiety-inducing, and frequently both, Friend Roulette has produced an eerily beautiful record. Or is it the other way around?
Watch “On Her Own Tonight’ form their 2013 LP