Published Feb 23, 2018The album art for FRIGS' Basic Behaviour — digitally designed by Toronto artist Olenka Szymonski — features a nude woman chained with her arm twisted backwards, in an aquarium with calla lilies floating around her. This uncomfortable visual mixture of vulnerability and disturbed beauty is truly befitting of FRIGS' debut, which plunges listeners into a darkened body of water that threatens to have no bottom.
Swirling in the blackened mix are Bria Salmena's lyrics, speaking both to her own experiences as a woman fronting a band, and personal struggles, and her ferocity and strength shine here. Her vocals are sung one moment and caterwauled the next, and continue to keep you guessing. Add in the command that the band have on structure, mood and method — a brittle twinge of guitar here, a swell on the brink of bursting there — and you've got something to behold.
The real test that Basic Behaviour had to pass was whether or not these fresh Arts and Crafts signees could harness the lurch and atmosphere of their live shows. Meticulously put together over a 16 month stretch, split between Union Sound in Toronto's east end and the band's home studio space, FRIGS managed to not muck it up. They cast the net and caught it.
"Waste" features a slow gurgle to life, and satisfyingly switches up the tempo at the halfway point, moving seamlessly from hazy to hectic. "Gemini" whirrs into motion, sounding like the soundtrack to a dream, hypnotically looping and offering reprieve from the ebb and flow of the guitars and drums. The deep hum of a cello near the end of the track darkens it further, and it is neat to hear the band expanding their instrumental choices. "II" dissolves into almost a sermon, and finds Salmena stating plainly, "This is shit and I am nothing, I am naked and you are prodding," which thematically exists in the same world as the incredible "Chest," which speaks to the disgusting 2015 Brock Turner rape case. "Chest" had a temporary home on as a 2016 EP release with "Trashyard," and now both tunes have found a home on this full-length.
Repetition in lyrics throughout Basic Behaviour amplifies the anxiety and restlessness that seem to fuel the record entirely. It begins to feel like an interrogation, the need to know, the frustration and a thirst for clarity. The melodies reflect these pangs, too, as the guitars twitch or tremble, trying to make sense of it all. (Arts & Crafts)