When producer extraordinaire Richard Russell put out the first Everything is Recorded record in 2018, it was like nothing I’d heard before. We covered it on the podcast and I was blown away. Using a thematic narrative of connectivity, it managed to meld together the styles and performances of a ridiculous amount of artists, from Ibeyi and Infinite to Damon Albarn and Peter Gabriel, to create a cohesive and powerful piece of work. It had moments of quiet beauty and sections in which it would aggressively burst to life. But all the way through, using a repeated interlude and musicians returning at regular intervals, it highlighted the importance of community and it did this by filling you with a sense of unending euphoria. It felt, to me, like a one off.
So I was a little bit surprised when I saw the name Everything is Recorded in the list of new releases a few weeks ago. To me, it felt like a project that should’ve stopped at one album. Or that it should at least have had more than a year and a half between it’s first two releases. Friday Forever again uses a theme to try and engender a sense of a narrative on an album that, again, features a ridiculous roster of artists. This time the theme, though, is a Friday night out. Each song, from ‘09:46 PM / EVERY FRIDAY THEREAFTER’ to ‘11:59 AM / CIRCLES – Outro’ is timestamped, and features a different perspective on a different part of a night out. As a theme this seems far more convoluted, and far less interesting, than the first album’s focus on connectivity. Perhaps it is also not helped by the fact that, since I started listening to this album, all of my Fridays have been spent in my living or dining room. But I don’t think that is the only problem here.
In fact, it is only by the time we reach the early hours of the morning in ‘3:15 AM / CAVIAR’ that this album offers anything even close to the quality on display in the self-titled debut. Its takes the emergence of the mercurial Ghostface Killah to bring this album to life. And maybe this is another part of the problem – there are so many artists on this album, but none of them bring the repeated brilliance that Sampha and Ibeyi did on the last one. On that album, it felt like everyone had their chance to shine, but that you had two or three lynchpins who were guaranteed to kill it every time they took centre stage.
Now, I don’t want this entire review to sound negative. This isn’t a bad album. That Ghostface Killah track is fantastic, and the A. K. Paul led ‘05:10 / DREAM I NEVER HAD’ is achingly beautiful. This is the first time this album really slows down and leaves the hip-hop realm, presenting some of the light and shade that was so integral to the Mercury prize nominated work from 2018. And we do come into the best run of songs on the album from that point on. ‘09:35 AM / PRETENDING NOTHINGS WRONG’ is another very decent piece of work, and when A. K. Paul returns for ‘10:02 AM / BURNT TOAST’ we have another album highlight. But it all just feels a little bit too late at this point. Maybe it
is unfair to only judge this album in comparison to the last one, but that is the only way I can really think to look at such a unique project. And this just doesn’t come close to the wonder of the first one.
Words by Fran Slater