Psychedelic Brooklyn quintet GIFT unwrap what Rolling Stone calls “a portal to another dimension” on their debut album, Momentary Presence. The album is a natural match for new label, Dedstrange Records, co-founded by Oliver Ackermann of A Place to Bury Strangers and Death by Audio.
On GIFT’S debut, bandleader TJ Freda & co. uncap the lens to project their vibrant spectrum of psych, krautrock, dream pop, post-punk, noise rock and electronica upon the vacant surfaces of the mind – inviting listeners to, in the words of countercultural guru Ram Dass, “be here now.” Those teachings, drawn from Be Here Now, Dass’s 1971 spiritual guide, feel particularly relevant in 2022. Freda and his bandmates Jessica Gurewitz, Kallan Campbell, Justin Hrabovsky, and Cooper Naess have a knack for conjuring soundscapes that are simultaneously turbulent and gorgeous.
Lead single “Gumball Garden” opens the gate to a technicolour shoegazing fantasy island dipped in syrupy synths and topped with powdered fuzz riffs to deliver a delectable confection of neo-psychedelic euphoria fuelled by dank strains of effervescent psych-prog. On “Share the Present,” crisp drum machines and airy ‘80s synthesizers make space for Freda’s refrain, delivered in a pillow-soft voice that “feels like a caress.” “Lost For You” is a rolling, bittersweet psych-folk breakup song driven by jangly acoustic strumming and Freda’s vivid palette of synthesizer and organ. And on the droning, slow burning “Feather,” Freda sings of “psychic destabilization and the quest for balance” from a patchwork nest of indie electronica held together by Fripp- and Beatlesque lead guitar.
The album introduces Freda as a sorcerous and versatile home-recording engineer. He can get guitars and synths to melt all over the tracks in the confines of his Brooklyn apartment. Momentary Presence contains recordings that seem to tease something seismic coming around the corner, like the brief but glorious instrumental “Dune;” it also contains dense, layered productions that feel complete, definitive, and impermeable, like “Pinkhouse Secret Rave.” The arc-like trip from the shimmering opener “When You Feel It Come Around” to the hypnotic closer “Here And Now (Time Floats By)” feels like a genuine journey – the sort of assured forty-minute trajectory that is only realized by musicians who appreciate the full-length as a work of art.
And if that’s all that there was to GIFT, Momentary Presence would still qualify as one of the most promising psychedelic rock debuts in a very long time. But the remarkable thing about TJ Freda is how much personality he’s able to inscribe in these tracks. Like all of us, Freda has been through plenty over the last few years; relocation, heartbreak, and crises in the lives of those close to him. Momentary Presence is a meditation on working through the anxiety and self-doubt that we all, at one point, carry.
GIFT have been selling out shows in Brooklyn for a while now. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on.