On its full-length debut album Friction, Milwaukee’s Ikarus Down sounds as if it’s been making music for years, given the strength and depth of its songwriting. It’s easy to understand why, considering the band members’ histories: Jonathan Ferrer (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and Nick Brenneman (keyboards) played in the Readiness; Patrick Masimore (bass) and Daniel Langkammer (drums) were in The Archives; and William Ryan Gardiner (lead guitar) played in the now-defunct Last Rhino, and continues to play bass with The Celebrated Workingman. The self-produced Friction explores a range of sounds, from hard rock to gentle ballads, with dense sonic layers that reveal themselves over repeated listens.
While the band’s name references the Greek myth about the fallen Icarus, Friction soars high enough to distinguish the band’s music without extinguishing its creativity. The group’s musical influences—Sigur Ros, Prodigy, Miike Snow, TV On The Radio, Massive Attack—are as varied as the album’s individual tunes, starting with the title track’s Oasis vibe. (That’s Peter Thomas from the MSO and I’m Not A Pilot on the well-placed cello sections.) “Where Do We Go?” ponders the inevitability of death and what follows in the afterlife, with Ferrer’s quiet lead vocals colliding with a chorus of fierce, jangly guitars.
Juxtapose that against the gentle acoustic strumming that accompanies Gardiner and a female vocalist (his fiancée, Clarissa Joan Anderson) on “River Romance,” which takes more than a few pages out of a post-’60s bossa nova songbook—including the nonchalant whistling. The simple, beckoning piano strains that complement the harmonies on the gorgeous closer “Float Away” provide a fitting conclusion to the myriad sounds that make Friction a cohesive and compelling effort.