Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Fridge ‎– Happiness (2001)

Style: Abstract, Downtempo, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Temporary Residence Limited, Domino, Text Records

Tracklist:
1.   Melodica And Trombone
2.   Drum Machines And Glockenspiels
3.   Cut Up Piano And Xylophone
4.   Tone Guitar And Drum Noise
5.   Five Four Child Voice
6.   Sample And Clicks
7.   Drums Bass Sonics And Edit
8.   Harmonics
9.   Long Singing

Credits:
Performer – Adem Ilhan, Kieran Hebden, Sam Jeffers
Written-By, Producer – Fridge

And I thought my quest had reached its end. After years of searching through used record bins, bothering knowledgeable friends for recommendations, and picking up parasites from local thrift shops, I had found Happiness. It wasn't exactly in the form I'd expected. I always assumed that when I finally found Happiness, it would be a glowing, golden piece of vinyl with a radius of exactly pi, with chubby cherubs floating around it, singing their sweet songs of joy. Instead, I found Happiness in the form of a CD, packed in a seemingly normal plastic jewel case, with a pretty flower on the cover. 
Thinking that I'd finally reached the final goal of all my years of record shopping, I immediately sold all my records and CDs to the local store, using the remaining money to buy honey and ambrosia to eat while listening to my newfound Happiness. I was so excited, I could barely even bring myself to actually listen to the CD. What mysteries lay within the sanctified aluminum grooves of the magical disc? The sounds of ancient spirits rejoicing at being freed from their earthly selves? A single sound containing an amalgamation of every possible waveform in the universe? Quantum theory proposes that everything in the universe is just a synthesis of waves of probability? Perhaps Happiness would even be the sound of these very waves! 
Finally, standing naked in the middle of my room with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of grapes in the other, I decided to unravel the mystery of Happiness. To my dismay, I discovered that there isn't all that much mystery to be unraveled. On their fourth album, Fridge, an instrumental band out of Putney, England fronted by Kieran Hebden (who also records pastoral IDM as Four Tet) and featuring bassist Adem Ilhan and drummer Sam Jeffers, have recorded a mellow, organic, and very well constructed instrumental album. Part vibraphone-laden, Chicago-style post-rock, part electronic minimalism, and part pure melodic exploration, Happiness occasionally manages to slip into an immensely blissful groove.

"Melodica and Trombone" sets the tone for the largely amorphous sound explorations that make up the nine tracks of Happiness. With an organ providing a solid backing for the song, trombones and melodicas weave interlacing melodies. Unsteady hand percussion only serves to make the song's structure more ambiguous, but this ambiguity adds an element of unpredictability to the track-- an element sorely lacking in some other places on the record. 
Take, for instance, "Drum Machines and Glockenspiels," a 13-minute whopper of a track with a steady drum machine beat and precious few changes in dynamics. Occasionally, some very interesting melodic interplay is achieved between the layers of synthesized beeps, chiming glockenspiels, and subtly plucked guitars that provide the primary melodic focus of the track. As the song progresses, more and more instruments enter the fray-- some more hand percussion, a snare drum, a flute-like instrument, and a more abrasive programmed beat. By the twelve-minute mark, the song has made about two minutes of progress. The melodies themselves just aren't strong enough to support this kind of sustained inaction. 
Thankfully, Happiness soon redeems itself, drifting away from structured songs and towards some beautiful explorations of sound and melody. "Cut Up Piano and Xylophone," one of the album's most blissfully structureless tracks, is also one of its strongest. Rather than simply piling on endless instruments, the song arranges minced samples of the titular instruments into a shifting, quivering soundscape of descending scales that recalls Tortoise's "Ten-Day Interval" or Ghost's "Daggma." The relatively short "Tone Guitar and Drum Noise" further explores the less structured side of Fridge, consisting almost entirely of a simple guitar figure, treble drones, and rhythmic noise. At the song's end comes one of the most stunningly gorgeous moments on Happiness: the pure, crisp ring of gently colliding bells. 
Generally speaking, Happiness is at its best when it focuses on sound rather than song. Fridge seem to work much better with implicit structures than with explicit ones, and when the songs on this record become too formal and arranged, they sink quickly into sonic complacency. Thankfully, there are enough moments of beauty on this record to make up for an occasional lack of forward momentum. By all means, Fridge have constructed a lovely record. But there's a lot more to true Happiness than just being pretty.
Matt LeMay / Pitchfork

Four Tet ‎– Pause (2001)

Style: Downtempo, Experimental, Folktronica
Dormat: CD, Vinyl
Label: Domino

Tracklist:
01.   Glue Of The World
02.   Twenty Three
03.   Harmony One
04.   Parks
05.   Leila Came Round And We Watched A Video
06.   Untangle
07.   Everything Is Alright
08.   No More Mosquitoes
09.   Tangle
10.   You Could Ruin My Day
11.   Hilarious Movie Of The 90s

Credits:
Written-By, Producer – Kieran Hebden

Four Tet’s second album is a voyage of warm, ambient loveliness. It is its author Kieran Hebden’s best work to date and confirms the prolific young soundmeister as a major talent.

Still in his mid-20s, southwest London-bred Hebden is already a veteran of three albums with his other group, Fridge, and countless singles under various monikers – as well as a guitarist in Badly Drawn Boy’s touring troupe. His debut album as Four Tet was entitled ‘Dialogue’ and demonstrated that music is a fluent language for Hebden that encompasses electronica, jazz and rock.

‘Pause’, however, uses a new syntax. It has a folky feel but still feels futuristic and otherworldly. It starts with the sound of a keyboard tapping, but ‘Glue Of The World’ soon transports us to ‘Pause”s natural terrain: a pastoral plain of scrambled acoustic guitars, zithers, rattling percussion, spectral electronics and perfectly chopped rhythm. And on ‘Harmony One’ he delivers no more than rustling, but it’s the most harmonious of rustling.

‘Pause’ would, [I]NME [/I]can only imagine, be perfect to perform martial arts to. It has that inner poise, depth and controlled power, as well as soundtracking an – ahem – gentle spirituality. Like Boards Of Canada, it is modern music for summer in the great outdoors, away from the urban sprawl. While doing Karate. At home, on your sofa, in the city
Ted Kessler / New Musical Express