Temporary Residence, 2001
By Allana Mayer
So I was walking home stoned last night, and decided to write a hidden gem. Of all the albums to listen to at that time, the second — nay — third album I thought of was Fridge’s Happiness (1. Charlambides’ A Vintage Burden; 2. Comets On Fire’s Blue Cathedral). It’s a stunning, epic collection of tracks — which seems a bit counterintuitive, but bear with me. The songs themselves are understated, mellow, and almost academically reserved, but somehow the single hour of this beautiful joyful mess of an album can take up your entire afternoon.You can easily imagine Happiness as a concept album, maybe even one made in reverse: titles are written and instruments picked, samples recorded, then the creation of song structures can occur.
Listening to it stoned is even more profound. It’s the perfect background buzz for your moments of paranoia, then the volume smudges up just a bit more and your brain’s suddenly overcome with “Ooh! Song!” and everything’s better. Instrumental means never having to get caught up in actual ideas. But your brain will easily latch onto a single riff or sample and demand to have it repeated. Fridge manages to create actual territory for itself, staking out a space in your brain.
Certain beat-making samples (“Drum Machines and Glockenspiels”) will bounce back and forth around the inside of your head, as do pretty much every hallucinatory note in “Cut Up Piano and Xylophones.” There’s something about “Piano,” and it’s not just the album’s claim to “happiness” leading me to this, that has me convinced it is the purest musical expression of anticipation. There’s a whirring, restless anxiety to the speedy bouncing of the notes, but it’s a happy flutter, like butterflies in your stomach. It’s, I don’t know, the night before Christmas, and listening to The Cure’s “Close To Me.” It’s just that good.
“Five Four Child Voice” comes the closest to a pop song, at least for its first eight minutes; the slow incorporation of a ringing bell sample is almost like a prank. The way it leads in to “Sample and Clicks,” the following track, is like a slow-motion shot in the head, ricocheting through your brain. “Tone Guitar and Drum Noise” is like exiting the womb. Every track is worthy of listen, even with abrasion or dissonance.You’ll find that a song has subtly shifted from relaxed chords to vicious noisy fuzz and you won’t even mind.
The album, lyric-free save for that titular child’s voice (which is indecipherable except for a possible “What about you?”), is as much an interesting sonic experience as an example of how far the definition of “pop” can be stretched. As a precursor to our current trends of sample-stuffing otherwise traditional tunes, Happiness beats the generic four-piece and the lackluster guy-with-laptop alike. I dread the day that Happiness seems dated to me.