Fridge The Sun(Temporary Residence) Buy it from Insound
It must be weird to be on the career trajectory of the members of Fridge. Start off in a seminal band, go separate ways and find serious recognition and credibility then go back to seminal band. Actually, put like that it sounds like a million and one newly reformed rock 'icons', whereas Fridge are a different entity altogether. Recent years' successful reformations, for example the Pixies, have been built around - quite frankly - a lack of cash, and in some cases very little commercial success in the solo years, but Keiran Hebden and Adem Ilhan have gone on to great acclaim and the occasional commercial success, negating the financial need for reforming. Even the artiste's craving for critical respect can't have been a factor, given that Hebden can put out an instantly incredible record seemingly whenever he feels like it, and Ilhan has released two very warmly received solo records directly from his Stoke Newington flat.
In many ways, for these two artists to come back into a band structure (along with Sam Jeffers, the same line-up that Fridge has had from their conception) must have been a wrench. Ilhan, who releases his solo albums under his first name alone, has plowed a path of heartwrenching and subtle traditional songwriting, featuring a bewildering array of instruments and his heartfelt, semi-whispered, semi-croaked croon. Hebden, releasing as Four Tet and latterly under his own name dueting with jazz/soul legend Steve Reid, is arguably the UK's premier electronic artist, a man with a record collection that will fit only into an aircraft hangar and more ideas and nous than anyone else working within the medium. As his solo career has progressed, it's encompassed his jazz, soul, hip hop and pop leanings, cramming layer upon layer of sound into cohesive wholes, and lately has included an entry into that rarest of canons, a successful improvised electronica release.
Fridge were generally labeled 'post-rock' in their day, for what that's worth. And they do fit into general perceptions of that near-obsolete genre: here are the heavy drum sounds and hypnotic arpeggios of Mogwai, there are the high-register melodies of Explosions In The Sky, over there the choral harmonies of Silver Mount Zion. And you could therefore justifiably argue that this is a retrogressive step for Hebden and Ilhan, and somewhat inexplicable.
But this conclusion could only be reached, really, if you haven't actually listened to The Sun. Because while those elements are certainly there, they're pulled together in a cohesive way that few of the above bands manage, even my beloved Mogwai. The album also crammed full of innovative bleeps and squeaks - if you're familiar with Four Tet you'll know the sort of thing - which add more of a unique selling point which in the end isn't all that necessary, because this is a somewhat dazzling album from some great talents, and it has an abundance of riches.
Opener The Sun is key - its lead instrument is Jeffers' drum-kit, which takes on the place of melody, harmony and rhythm against a backdrop of squealing feedback and mathy electronic noise. This is where an explanation starts to present itself: it sounds like Hebden, Ilhan et al are having fun. This feeling is continued throughout avant-garde, arty, and yet delightfully accessible numbers such as Insects and Comets, and the overall effect is an album which is pleasingly cerebral but also listenable and structured, and it's just what I like from a record. There are times when the Four Tet influence is almost palpable, there are times when Adem's melodic strains come through, and there are times when Sam Jeffers clearly wrested control and went nuts, often resembling John Stanier's frenetic bashing of Battles' kit. So, a democratically-presented, creative and frequently beautiful album, well worth your attention.4 October, 2007 - 16:00 — Simon Briercliffe