It would be very easy to dismiss Fridge, a London 3 piece steeped in the analogue/digital experiments of the American post-rock underground, as tail chasers, imitators in awe of their heroes. On close inspection, however, their output over the last few years has been consistently inspiring and increasingly original, akin as much to the minimal intricacies of Japanese electronica as to the latest McEntire/O'Rourke opus.
'Happiness', Fridge's latest long player, comes hot on the heels of Kieren Hebden's recent solo album, the sublime 'Pause', and the influence of his solo work released under the Four Tet moniker, mixing the warm tones of acoustic guitar with a more clinical, electronic edge, can be heard clearly here. Hebden is undoubtedly a driving force behind the band, his lilting, liquid bass lines underpinning the more ethereal, fractured sound that surrounds them.
It would be spurious to claim, as the NME did recently, that a folk-centred, acoustic approach to electronic music is something new; Adam Pierce's Mice Parade project pioneered the technique years ago. But there's a lightness of touch here, a sincerity that rejects the more cerebral excesses of modern experimental music. The title of this album is not, as you'd be forgiven for expecting, ironic; the fluttering, Papa M-like guitar work on 'Five Four Child Voice' has all the contentment of a crackling fire in winter buried in it's repetitive, mantra-like motifs, while the melody repeated throughout the bittersweet 'Long Singing' is unashamedly familiar and sentimental.
Being technicians at heart, Fridge do allow the odd rough edge to poke through here, the barest of hint of electronic corrosion seeping through the glockenspiel led subtelty of, approriately enough, 'Drum Machines And Glockenspiels', but the contrast between rough and smooth is never jarring; 'Happiness' may not be as easy to digest as Four Tet's celebrated album, but it's enjoyably soft focus instrumentals are as much comforting and evocative as they are challenging. A treat.
8Tom Eyers's Score