Review Summary: An album where percussion takes prominence and it is for the better, as cliche and uninspired guitars provide the only source of melody.
It was the end of third grade, and I was all ready to sign up for my school district’s band program, which would begin the following year. I was an aspiring drummer, along with half of my class. Of that large number, a good ¾ were rejected by their parents, all of them saying the drums were “too loud” or “too big”, myself included. I quote my mother as saying “it’s not real music.” Most of the rejected simply decided to not sign up for anything. I, on the other hand, signed up for the trumpet. A year later I would switch once more to the euphonium. Warp to my sophomore year of high school and one would find me playing in my high school’s indoor drumline, albeit on guitar in the front ensemble. I never lost my interest in musical, well-done percussion. Recently, I’ve fallen in love with artists like Venetian Snares and Trilok Gurtu, the former an incredible breakbeat artist and the latter a celebrated world and jazz percussionist. I wonder what would have happened if, on that fateful day in the third grade, I had Fridge’s The Sun
is an immensely percussive album, whether it takes full prominence like in the album’s first two tracks or if it simply adds atmospherics as seen “Our Place in This” or “Insects”, the percussion and drums in this album stand out far above the otherwise cliché and simple melodic structure. The title track begins mostly as a drum set solo, while various noises make some sort of negligible melody, sounding more like the brandishing of a sword, which plays in perfectly with the splashy cymbals. As the groove falls apart into stick clicks, it transitions perfectly into “Clocks”, which in itself transitions perfectly into the first appearance of real guitar melodies. Just before the halfway point in the track, the percussion finally becomes a part of the background, setting a groove rather than being the main attraction. Still, the assorted cymbals and other percussion make even this simplicity interesting. Later in the album, “Comets” introduces a drum machine rather than live drums. It plays a rather typical beat, allowing the other instruments to have a chance to shine, from the chessy, modulated 80s synth to the upright bass motif. Near the end of the song, the electronic drums drop out to allow for lighter percussion like congas. The percussion on The Sun
comes in immense variety and keeps the songs much more interesting than the melodies provide.
Unfortunately, as the album reaches its end, the percussion loses its importance and the trio relies on their melodies, which are much less original and interesting than the percussion. “Lost Time” features oohs and ahhs from male voices, in the strange out of tune style seen from bands like A Silver Mt. Zion on “Sow Some Lonesome Corner So Many Flowers Bloom”. The guitars, which grow from clean guitar picking to heavy, distorted chords, add to the chaotic scene. While well executed, it drags on for too long and the sound has all been done before, and better. “Insects” makes use of juxtaposing melodic ideas, with the beautiful, simple guitar pattern going against the chaos of the sweeping woodwinds. Much like Sun Ra or other experimental free-jazz, the two ideas are their own entity, like two songs at once, but once again, it is too little for too long. The second half of the album fails in that respect fairly consistently. “Years and Years and Years” is the best of the second half, paying homage to bands like Sparklehorse in its atmosphere. The main theme throughout the song is the guitar strums, but it grows gracefully. It serves as a closing track and nothing else, but it does that perfectly.
finds Fridge coming off a 6 year hiatus, with guitarist Kieran Hebden focusing on Four Tet and bassist Adem Ilhan focusing on his own solo project, but they come back with strong, original ideas that don’t span an album but at least half of one. The drums and percussion alone make the album what it is, and therefore the tracks where they get prominence are the best. Otherwise, the album feels outdated and uninspired, which opened the way for many other critics to come down hard on the album. Most of the album is still enjoyable, however, and certainly provides some new ideas for instrumental rock music.