FRIGS have been described many ways: “swamp rock,” “sludge-pop,” “doom and atmospheric gloom.” Most frequently, though, they’re compared to PJ Harvey and Sonic Youth. The Toronto band makes no attempt to mask those influences on its debut LP, Basic Behaviour—indeed, they’re cited in FRIGS’ own press releases—and their presence can at times be stifling, like a fragrance that lingers long after someone has left the room. The most compelling songs on this album occur when the group reconfigures these component parts into new shapes. Vocalist Bria Salmena’s gnarled growl is the main force shaping their sound, while Duncan Hay Jennings’ shrieking guitar doses it with frenzy. These warring frequencies imbue otherwise prosaic songs with depth, texture, and just the right amount of rage.
FRIGS have released only a handful of songs since their inaugural split cassette as Dirty Frigs in 2013, but their sound has made noticeable strides in five years. If they’re not quite fully formed, the music resonates with potential all the same. Opening track “Doghead” is a concise example: Its initial guitar and bass notes volley in conversation before Jennings interjects with a metallic scratching, as if he’s sliding a hacksaw down his fretboard. Salmena butts in last, deploying the record’s most memorable phrase. “He put his tongue in sordid pies,” she snarls. Her lyrical palette is evocative but limited—the whole of “Doghead” contains only 15 distinct words.
Salmena’s vernacular doesn’t expand much throughout the record. She relies heavily on simple language and repetition, and these stunted verses can undermine otherwise punchy singles. Take “II,” which endlessly reminds us, “This is shit, just admit it.” But every once in a while, Salmena spits allusive verbiage that prompts interpretation. In the middle of the same song, she tells us: “It’s bleak/I can barely speak/My instincts or what’s left of me, heat.” This admission conveys a rare sense of vulnerability in Salmena, who sounds so broken down that her vital signs are the only indication of life.