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Gift: Momentary Presence Album Review


“When You Feel It Come Around”, the opening track of Presentthe first album of Momentary Presence, is a familiar psychedelic mission statement. “You feel it coming / It’s time, it’s time / You leave it all alone / It’s love, it’s love,” TJ Freda sings softly over waves of shimmering vibes. Far from the abstract zone it may initially seem, the song is about Freda learning to navigate years of anxiety attacks. Of the, Momentary Presence offers an abundance of transporting sounds, exquisite layers of distorted guitars and synths that suggest the transcendence of loss of self. Yet the album more directly describes a journey of refocusing – without dismissing the value of venturing into psychological seas, but also of re-embracing the shore.

There are whole stories of psychedelic music falling apart in Momentary Presence: Creation Records-style coos and swirls, guitars going in and out just like in the beginning Spiritualized, bold new wave synth melodies, the sonic immersion of shoegaze. Freda is the person behind nearly every sound on the album, and he created much of it from his Brooklyn apartment. While the novelty of building the world from a bedroom and a laptop isn’t groundbreaking in 2022, it’s a testament to the interaction in Freda’s project – grappling with inner thoughts and emotions while seeking a balm in the most expansive sounds.

To get there, Freda went to therapy and dove into Ram Dass’ be here now, a pivotal document adjacent to the original psych-rock’s golden age. Freda’s own title, Momentary Presence, conveys a similar prompt, with much of its lyrics focusing on capturing or embracing the beauty of fleeting moments, being present with an experience whether euphoric or traumatic. Freda sings things like “Lost my head and found it on my face” in a song called “Share the Present”; the album ends with the feeling “Here and now, time flies”.

Freda keeps the album in this present with clean spins on recognizable sounds, grounding each mantra with hooks. “Gumball Garden,” a pre-pandemic vision of waking up in a world where everyone has suddenly disappeared, rips about half a dozen addictive guitar lines, including a big fuzzy attack that sounds like the best riff Tame the impala hasn’t written for 10 years Solitude. The equally propulsive ‘Share the Present’ sighs above a glistening, cascading synth pattern. While these and other rockers like “Share the Dream” are often the highlights, the biggest achievement on Momentary Presence is “Feather”, an airy and patient account with someone struggling and unable or unwilling to be helped. Inspired by a lucid dream, “Feather” plays like a melancholy watercolor memory until the beat picks up three and a half minutes, giving the song a new urgency.