After a six-year hiatus, Fridge is back sounding very much like Fridge. Which is to say, they continue to embody an eclecticism compounded not of styles, but of sounds. The trio, which formed in London in 1996, is comprised of Kieran Hebden (Four Tet), Adem Ilhan (Adem) and Sam Jeffers. They make music, primarily instrumental, which has been described as post-rock, though in truth they seem adept at fusing the shrapnel and sublimity of any number of musical traditions. On The Sun they swerve from long passages of intense, intricately arranged melodicism into brashly orchestrated cacophonies, managing to engage at a number of different levels along the way. They give the impression of being serious explorers of sonic landscapes, but playfully so, open to surprises, accidents and mistakes. One moment, everything may be tightly wound together, each element in its proper place, while in the next chaos slips between the cracks, though to be sure, it is chaos bound by the trio’s sense of purpose, however tenuously.
Quite often, Fridge simultaneously provokes both a visceral and a contemplative response. “Comets” begins with the thud of an electronic beat, which is quickly joined by the disjointed squealing of a keyboard. One pulls you toward animation, the other abstraction. The track is hinged on a simple piano figure that appears about a minute in, which, as the song progresses, manages to hold each element together in such a way that the it eventually becomes recognizable for what it is: a song in a distinctly pop format composed out of seemingly incongruous fragments. What begins in disarray ends in unity, even harmony. This type of movement is typical of The Sun, and more than that, it is one of the threads that bind the album together.
Like “Comets,” “Insects” and “Oram,” among others, are songs constantly in flux. While it may appear that Fridge has set into a particular groove, there is always an undertone of what will come next. On both tracks, pristine, emotive guitar lines are set against spastic drumming which seems headed elsewhere, settling down only to rupture again and again before finally taking the rest of the arrangement along with it. They communicate while remaining aloof, suggest one idea while remaining open to other, seemingly dissimilar ones. Shifting shape again and again, they leave an imprint of musical order all their own, one that the listener cannot anticipate. The separate intelligences of the band members meld into one discreet group intelligence.
All of that said, Fridge can rock out when they choose to. “Eyelids” is a guitar rave-up, riffing and pummeling, concisely realized. It begins with a simple, angular guitar line, but swiftly becomes more ominous, heavy distorted guitars playing out a scene dominated by anxiety. The track is a midpoint in the album, a pause amidst the multiple faces revealed by most of the majority of the songs. It centers on a single shift from relative coherence to resonant uncertainty. On “Lost Time,” Fridge takes a similarly straightforward path. It is the only track with vocals—though only harmony—and they are woven around a plaintive guitar, rise and falls with it, ghostly apparitions, both human and otherworldly. When the guitars crescendo they become a howling mass, a tangled web of exultance, strung together with primal restraint.
The Sun is not the kind of album that reveals itself immediately. Like the bulk of Fridge’s other material, it demands a certain slowing down from the listener, a situating of oneself in the midst of the action. But one quickly becomes receptive to the substantiality of their music, to the bright smattering of musical intelligence on display. As is appropriate to an album that’s greatness lies in transition, it demands attentiveness to detail. But there are plenty of moments that situate themselves in the listener, iridescent fragments, memories of a world lit by a foreign sun.