By: Ron Hart
Before making their own names as the cream of the crop amongst forward-thinking musical acts of the 00's, Kieran "Four Tet" Hebden and Adem Ilhan, along with bandmate Sam Jeffers, were an instrumental British outfit known as Fridge. Together, they forged a bold fusion of the sounds emanating from Chicago's post-rock movement through innovative groups like Tortoise and Gastr del Sol with the skittering electronic rhythms of Aphex Twin and Autechre that remains one of the hidden treasures of the experimental '90s.
However, while you may swear these guys were perpetually connected to some kind of a laptop or drum machine to capture the wholly alien sonic palpitations they created together, many of their compositions were crafted utilizing nothing more than your standard guitar-bass-drums arrangements. And even when they did employ the use of samplers, they did so by such organic means that you couldn't tell what was filched from source material and what was created by their own hands.
Following the trio's surprise reunion album in 2007, The Sun (JamBase review), Fridge look back on their salad days with Early Output 1996-1998 (Temporary Residence), a 21-track collection anthologizing the group's genesis on Output Recordings, a revolutionary electronic-based record label run by Trevor Jackson of the UK dance unit Playgroup. Curated by Hebden, Ilhan and Jeffers themselves, these tracks showcase the band's post-rock leanings more so than their later EPs and LPs, particularly on tracks like the 15-minute "Angelpoised," which sounds like Talk Talk's Laughing Stock crunked out with an 808, or "Orko," a vibe-heavy near-nine-minute jam that comes off like it should owe studio points to John McEntire. It's hard to think this stuff was recorded on cassettes in a crude home studio; it all sounds so great.
Elsewhere, shades of Hebden's evolution as Four Tet can be traced back to tracks like
"Zedex Ay Ti Wan" and "Concert in Your House," while "Helicopter" and "A Swerve and a Spin" offer up a heavy, Slint-like guitar dirge that foreshadows the chaotic freeform of Hebden's recent collaborative work with jazz drummer Steve Reid.
Though most of the material here is from Fridge's first few EPs and their two Output full-lengths, 1997's Ceefax and 1998's Semaphore, Early Output features six previously unreleased tracks: the fuzzy, flowing, ten-minute space jam "Distance" followed by five lo-fi fragments of compositional sketches that barely clock in at three-minutes total.
Longtime fans of Fridge might find this collection a little superfluous if you already own most of what they released on Output. However, for those who got turned onto the genius of Fridge through either Four Tet or Adem, this makes for a great beginner's guide.
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