Brooklyn-based psych rock quintet and newest JOVM mainstays GIFT — TJ Freda, Jessica Gurewitz, Kallan Campbell, Justin Hrabovsky and Cooper Naess — have 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 and radical openness during times of tumult.
As a band, their overall approach is rooted in a desire to live in the moment. And as a result, they’ve created a live show that sees them pushing their material in wildly improvisatory directions. And a result, the’ve been selling out shows in Brooklyn — mostly through word of mouth.
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 signed the rising Brooklyn psych rockers earlier this year. Building upon the growing buzz surrounding the band, the Brooklyn psych outfit’s full-length debut Momentary Presence dropped today.
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.
Thematically speaking, 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.
I managed to write about three of the album’s singles in the lead-up to its release:
- “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.
- “Feather,” 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.
- “Share The Present,” a slick synthesis of Join the Dots-era Toy and The Horrors centered around glistening synth arpeggios and a relentless motorik groove paired with wiry bursts of guitar. The arrangement serves as an airy bed for TJ Freda’s breathily cooed, gentle affirmations. The song manages to present the album’s central theme of being present in the present moment — without attempting to look towards the future or dwell on the past.
“Stuck In A Dream,” Momentary Presence‘s fourth and latest single pairs Freda’s dreamy falsetto with gleaming, retro-futuristic synths, thrumming and fuzzy guitars, enormous hooks and a relentless motorik groove. Much like the previously released singles, “Stuck In A Dream” is a lysergic-induced dream that wraps the listener in warm, hazy cocoon.
“‘Stuck In A Dream’ is about being stuck in a loop,” says Freda. “The idea of being stuck in a dream, stuck in the idea of someone or something, and not being able to look at it from the outside, to reveal if it’s good or bad.”
Directed by the band’s TJ Freda, the accompanying video for “Stuck In A Dream” features hazy VHS colors and scan lines that fits the fuzzy psychedelia of the song, while seeking the eject button from the seemingly unending cycles of fast-forward, play and rewind.