Tuesday, March 22, 2011

5 Star Corner: Fridge - Orko (Output)

Choose chaos. Choose to let Keiran Hebden indulge in a couple of minutes of Branca-worship towards the end of the otherwise staid groove of "Distance." Choose to let free jazz interludes take over the mix of "Jessica." Choose to let things run wild.

This EP is a minor masterpiece of post-rock as it should be, not post-rock as it is. The tracks here are held down by impeccable grooves courtesy of the band's rhythm section but not dictated solely by their whims. Each of the tracks has room to breathe, room to let the trio's various odd whims run wild. These pieces are fluid, unrestrained compositions that have the intimacy and unpredictability of a live jam session. Every time I think that a given track will keep going in one direction, stay the course laid by Adem Ilhan's impeccable bass grooves and Sam Jeffers' precise time keeping, a new element pops into the mix to drag it away from that course.

Take "Distance as the template for this; starting out with a simple, hypnotic groove it abruptly devolves into arrhythmic jazz for a few minutes, destroying the established rhythm only to have it resurrect itself with just as little fanfare as it was dropped with. Not all the tracks are as self-destructively inclined as that - "Jessica" skips the formality of an establishing groove altogether - but that sort of unpredictability permeates the whole release, keeping the listener on edge while never giving the impression that these guys don't know what they're doing. It's a tough balance to pull off, but Fridge at this point in their evolution had mastered it.

I think the biggest thing in the pro-column for this EP is that you can hear the trio getting as bored with post-rock as a lot of listeners became not too long after this. You can hear the restlessness, the desire to branch out beyond the sound they'd established on Semaphore being channeled into some exceedingly creative directions. In other words, it's the sound of a band destroying the box they'd been placed in, carefully hinting at the dancier direction they'd take on their next releases without fully revealing it while forcing their way through jazz to get there. Listening to the evolution of Fridge through their 1998 releases alone is like watching Neu become Squarepusher over the course of 90 minutes. It's not the direction I might have expected to hear them take, but the results make for one of the best strings of releases that the whole post-rock scene has to offer. [9.5/10]

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