Fri April 19
One thing that is often missing in the young American's musical experience is willful innocence: the kids are overexposed, and it's making us all tough inside. We're so overexposed, in fact, that we're beyond jaded--we've crossed such a weird, uncrossable line of dis-attachment that it takes two guys in creepy masks (one looking like the schizophrenic projections of Donnie Darko, while simultaneously showing off his ass crack) to get us all dancing and touching each other and feeling like we belong again, like we're a part of something. (Many thanks to Pink & Brown for acting as catalysts for human connection at the Meow Meow the other night.) But sometimes, you just want to marvel in the beauty of life, to take a big old bath in innocence, just because you can.
Unfortunately, much of the music that marvels in the beauty of life is in direct opposition to the existential journey, often feeling like a big smack in the face with a slice of cheddar. But I have a solution to this conundrum: Fridge--three Londoners whose instrumental music is smart enough to bring us beauty and innocence, without making us want to puke on our shoes.
So please don't barf when I tell you that Fridge's music has the pink, pulsing glow of a newborn baby's heartbeat. This rather singular comparison is achieved by the deep patter of programmed beats, sultry and subtle guitars, the sampling and subtle placing of peripheral noise; a blend of pretty organic instrumentation and vaguely experimental electronics. All of it is hypnotic--structured, rhythmic, and cyclical, with a tasteful building of live drums over cozy bass lines, or a series of harmonizing, a cappella vocals, finger snaps, xylophones. Unlike bands with a similar base idea of emotional instrumentals, there is a complete shedding of pretense and embracing of the raw, therefore their songs cannot possibly become boring (thank god).
Formed in London in Putney, England in 1995, back when they were still teenagers, their first releases were slightly jazzy, but there was always a sheen of minimalism. Not the cold kind of electronic minimalism that can make music sound clinical--Fridge are experts at just being spare, making their sweet music with the smallest amount of sound possible. This is exhibited best on their latest record, Happiness (on the uncommonly tasteful label Temporary Residence Ltd.). The album opens with the intriguing "Melodica and Trombone," in which the shivery cackling of percussive bells shatter all over the simple melodies of their melodica and trombone, increasing to a slow boom of white noise that sounds like the earth is opening up and swallowing the instruments. On another track, "Cut Up Piano and Xylophone," those instruments fold over each other in pretty, harmonic tones that sound like spoons clinking glasses of water. It's totally beautiful, that a band can make noises that sound so organic and unsullied. In much of Fridge's music, these songs develop in a linear manner, never wrapping up with a simple ending, but rather continuing on into the night, as if they are just snippets of the most interesting parts, and you yourself have to fill in what happens next. Because of this, their music gleams with the excitement of possibility.
Okay, still no vomiting allowed but you know the first couple moments when you first realize you're in love with someone, and your whole world starts going in slow-mo, because your heart's beating faster, and you get warm and glowy, and you could die right at that instant? Well, even without words, Fridge's music sounds like those moments. It's all so goddamn pretty, you might give in to the innocence, for once. And that would be okay.