Wednesday, January 27, 2010

13. Happiness - Fridge (2001)

Just before Four Tet became his day-job and well before he hooked up with Steve Reid, Kieran Hebden hit an undeniable creative peak. So varied and provocative was his golden touch that the toughest choice I had to make in this whole Top-of-Decade list was between his groundbreaking 2003 release Rounds and his less-publicized but venomously adored Happiness. At the end of the day, Fridge’s sophomore effort for Temporary Residence won my desert-island pick and demotes Hebden’s involvement from authoritarian to contributor. A collection of dreamy acoustics and starry instrumental stretches, Happiness is anything but tightly structured, allowing ‘Tone Guitar and Drum Noise’ to stretch like morning light over bedsheets or ‘Drums Bass Sonics and Edit’ to spread into several suites without fully exploring any one idea. This organic approach to songwriting – letting the quality of a melody or beat decide its indefinite stay – may result in the occasional overdose (the barely-there evolution of thirteen-minute ‘Drum Machines and Glockenspiels’ is a bit of a gauntlet) but it also births most of Fridge’s best-ever songs. Breezy yet emotionally resonant, tracks like ‘Five Four Child Voice’ and ‘Long Singing’ are best titled in such uncalculated, studio-note fashion, as they aren’t fully completed songs until they worm lovingly into your life.

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