I recently read that Fridge consider themselves "three close friends, making music quickly and directly from what we feel." And after giving the appropriately titled Happiness a few deep listens, it comes as little surprise that the trio are in good spirits these days. Although emotion is perhaps the most transient of forces governing our day-to-day, we sit securely with the knowledge that there are particular pieces of music that can bring us up or level our downs, add or subtract depth; a song or album can contract our consciousness, blocking out the peripheral, ephemeral shitty day, or extend the transient instant of joy. Yet for all the complex layers of psychology we assign to whatever it is we are feeling, what the music can make us feel or forget, there are occasional moments of at-a-loss-for-words sentiment - the instances and affectations that account for the times when we are unequivocally and simply 'happy.' Happiness, more than any record of recent memory, captures my kind of happy - an effortless yet perfectly pleasing happy.
It's the happy that orbits a band's most realized and encompassing record to date. It's the happy that extends the most beautiful sections of songs as long as you, the listener, want them to go. It's the happy that the band has described as "safe and at ease, late in the night, warm and loving." It's the happy that sates the impatient music fan, he or she who waits for a cohesive, balanced amalgam of sincere electronic sentiment and emotive rock tendency. It's the happy that governs the patient duration of what has been reduced by singles culture to a fleeting moment; this, an album beauteous from start to finish. It's the happy that allows an unpaid, mostly unmotivated writer to exclusively put pen to paper and praise the records he actually enjoys.
It's the happy that yields the confidence to give song titles literal, almost pretentious Reichian names like "Melodica and Trombone," Tone Guitar and Drum Noise," and "Sample and Clicks." (Especially when the band favored sci-fi titles like "Meum," "Tuum," "Zed Ex Ay-Ti-Wan" and "Lign.") It's the happy combination of the dichotomous organic/electronic sensibilities of Kieran Hebden's guitar, Adem Ilhan's melodic and resonant bass and Sam Jeffers steady, sure-handed beats with the trio's digital reverence for computers and components. It's the happy that grows when the band you start in high school finds a way to survive college and balance itself amongst side projects (specifically Hebden's similar Four Tet stuff), label changes and the carnivorous British press. It's the happy that allows you to read this, the tenth straight sentence to begin with "It's the happy," and keeps you from planting a clammy, clenched fist through your company's failing monitor. The point here being that to truly experience Happiness, you must exercise patience.
Five of the nine tracks clock in over the six-minute mark, with the album peaking in thirds with the cerebral drone of "Drum Machines and Glockenspiels" (13:18) highlighting the opening. "Five Four Child Voices" accents the middle with a patient, emotive indie crescendo opening into an blithely flowing bass-driven melody that brings to mind diverse yet at times similarly toned rock influences like Bedhead, Couch, and Tristeza. Closing out the record is the blissful bedtime orchestration of "Long Singing." Smartly placed as the album's final track, the rolling melody and poignant affect bring the album to a comforting, satisfying close. It's easily the best closing track since Seam's "Autopilot." The shorter, experimental filler tracks like "Cut Up Piano and Xylophone" and "Sample and Clicks" do indeed act as connective elements, linking the more muscular compositions, sustaining the record's balance and mood (although they may dissuade the casual listener expecting a more conventionally structured "song.")
Happiness is best when experienced in its entirety, almost as if it were a single musical composition made up of narrative movements. Each speaks a subtle yet complex opinion regarding the nature of happiness. Like many of the similarly sounding, mainly instrumental post-rock outfits in Europe and the US (Kreidler, Tortoise, To Rocco Rot to name a few), the cinematic quality of Fridge is as unavoidable as it is malleable. Take it, shape it, use it to enhance your walkman treks, your bedtime trysts. Because by happily making music, Fridge have resultantly produced something certain to make you-- Steve Marchese