reviewed by Chris Matei
The release of a new record generally signifies a turning point in a band’s life-cycle: it’s time to shift from the in-studio mindset of creative refinement and distillation toward the extroverted process of promotion, touring and getting that music out into the world. Rarely does a band conceive of, write, record and release a record designed to be their final goodbye to the scene that birthed them: such is the somewhat bittersweet story of the Farewell EP by Vancouver’s Ladyfrnd.
Ladyfrnd was formed by Peter Ricq (member of local hazy-electro trio Gang Signs as well as the more energetic Humans, whose Noontide made waves on this very blog earlier this year) and his, ahem, ladyfriend, Yuki Holland. Their self-titled LP, released in 2013, cultivated a sparse beatscape overlaid with Holland’s laid-back vocals and a smattering of ukulele – a sound that was at the same time sunny and haunted, dreamlike but not without lucidity, anchored in romance but not overlooking the potential for bleakness and emotional friction.
Tellingly, Farewell opens with Holland’s distant laughter and a lilting uke melody, over which her moodily reverb-saturated vocals intone a tale of lost memories and the desire to move on from something that has clearly become a shade of what it once was. Weighty kick drums pulse like muted heartbeats in the song’s first half: as Holland sighs “no more you and I,” the beat shudders to life. It’s the first of a series of what feel like song-vignettes on the theme of love turned gray and distant: succinct and heartfelt still lifes capturing a very particular emotional moment. “Geist” is a darker and denser-toned portrait, the airy vocals and bass-heavy production recalling the xx’s pairing of Jamie Smith and Romy Madley Croft only to unfold into a menacing dark-dance groove.
Instrumental “Go Quietly” puts an echo-swaddled ukulele and guitar at the forefront, with only the barest snare-skin pitter-patter and samples of far-off waves present to hold it up. A mournful harmonica line cuts through the track’s misty shape like something out of a Gondry head-trip. “Sing Softly” is even sparser and more brittle at first, each string-pluck its own bright ping and puff of accompanying room sound. Ricq’s percussion and basslines seem to sneak up out of nowhere to give the track warmth and depth that it seems to ache for. Holland’s whispery delivery compliments the theme: “I’ll go quietly, when the sun rises.”
“Strange Days” returns to the dark and heavy vibe that “Geist” established: it’s the EP’s most dance-friendly cut, built on subsonically deep kick drum, resampled vocals and sinister analog sweeps – a song that would not have been out of place on Humans’ last record.
The album closes with an instrumental reprise of its title track, a last little wave from the window. Though it’s a bit of a downer to see them go, Ladyfrnd will leave listeners with a fond Farewell.
Top Tracks: “Geist,” “Sing Softly”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)