Brooklyn-based psych rock quintet GIFT — TJ Freda, Jessica Gurewitz, Kallan Campbell, Justin Hrabovsky and Cooper Naess — have developed and honed an uncanny knack for crafting soundscapes that are simultaneously turbulent and gorgeous. As a band, they share the quest of the perfect sound rooted in harmony during times of tumult and radical openness. Their overall approach is a desire to live in the moment. In fact, live they’ve created a live experience that sees them pushing their material in wildly improvisatory directions — and as a result, they’ve been selling out shows in Brooklyn, through word of mouth. (I recently saw them open for Frankie and The Witch Fingers a couple of weeks ago, and the Brooklyn-based outfit really blew me — and the entire crowd — away.)
Dedstrange Records, a new label co-founded by A Place to Bury Strangers’ and Death by Audio’s Oliver Ackermann and Kepler Events‘ Steven Matrick recently signed GIFT and will be releasing their full-length debut Momentary Presence on October 14, 2022. Inspired by Ram Dass’ 1971 spiritual guide and countercultural landmark Be Here Now, Momentary Presence is a meditation on working through the anxiety and self-doubt that we all, at some point or another, carry. Specifically conceived, written and recorded with the idea of a full-length album being a fully contained work of art, the songs on Momentary Presence reportedly tease something seismic coming around the corner, while featuring dense layered productions that feel and sound self-assured, complete, definitive and impermeable. This is rooted in the band’s belief that each moment has richness, complexity and singularity. And once it’s gone, it can’t be recaptured or repeated.
The album asks the listener several key questions: Can you truly be present? Can you open yourself up and appreciate life in its fullness — the ugliness and confusion, as well as the beauty and joy? The members of GIFT believe that the listener can. And their full-length debut is a chronicle of that chase, and a celebration of the eternal now.
Last month, I wrote about the album’s first single, “Gumball Garden,” a towering ripper centered around an expansive and densely layered arrangement featuring scorching guitar pyrotechnics, fuzzy power chords, glistening synth arpeggios, thunderous drumming and a relentless motorik groove paired with rousingly anthemic hooks and Freda’s gentle cooing. Sonically, “Gumball Garden” brings Join the Dots-era TOY, Minami Deutsch, Kikagaku Moyo, JOVM mainstays No Swoon and others to mind — but with a swaggering, self-assuredness.
“I wrote this song way before most people knew what the word pandemic meant,” GIFT’s TJ Freda says. ““I had a dream in late 2019 where I woke up one day and there was nobody on earth. I was walking around looking for any forms of life to no avail. It was sad but also strangely peaceful. When the pandemic happened, this song took on a whole new meaning. We did wake up one day and the streets were empty. Everyone had gone away. This song is about finding peace in solitude.”
“Feather,” Momentary Presence‘s second and latest single is a slow-burning and contemplative song with painterly textures featuring glistening synth arpeggios, skittering, metronomic beats paired with Freda’s ethereal cooing, a soaring hook and a blazing guitar solo. While simultaneously evoking both a feather floating in the breeze, Autobahn-era Kraftwerk and The Pleasure Principle-era Gary Numan, the song was written by the band’s TJ Freda the morning after waking from a lucid dream.
“This is one of the most personal songs on the record,” says Freda. “One night I connected with a loved one in a dream, except I was in their mind. I was standing right in front of them and kept trying to call to them but the world in this dream was too loud and noisy. They couldn’t see or hear me. ‘Feather’ is about trying to help someone who can’t be helped, but in the end you accept them for who they are and love them no matter what.”
Directed by Dylan Brannigan and featuring animation by the band’s TJ Freda, the accompanying video is a series of surrealistic yet lucid fever dream-like vignettes rendered in hazy, saturated VHS-like hues.