One of the craziest things to me about Happiness is that it's the first domestic release of a Fridge album. Although they've released tons of singles and 3 other full-lengths overseas, it's taken several years to finally bring them to this side of the Atlantic (and that wasn't without some work on the part of several people). Although they've been creating amazing music for some time, they've only made a small splash in the United States due to those who've sought out their import releases (hard to find at that). Hopefully with this release, though, they'll become a much bigger name.
Happiness is a blissful 9-track, almost 60 minute release. As with their past releases, the group mixes actual played instruments with samples and a touch of electronics to create an album that simply grows and grows on you. Comprised of three young members (including Kieran Hebden of Four Tet), the group seems to be hitting more of a stride with each release. While their compliation of singles Sevens And Twelves was obviously a more varied release, they picked up steadily on both their Semaphore and Eph discs after their debut, and now the group seems to have worked into a very nice flow.
Although that might not be really apparent on the album opener of "Melodica And Trombone" (it's the least structured track on the disc, with subtley shifting layers of said instruments, along with some shakers), the group really starts into things with the long second track of "Drum Machine And Glockenspiels." As with all the tracks on the disc, the titles at least semi-name the different instruments used in the track, and the 13-minute track ebbs along with a simple pitter-patter of drum machine and a thick bassline while chiming glockenspiels and some mild glitch sounds twinkle down until they reach a feverish flurry about two-thirds of the way through and wind down again.
If that track was nice, though, nothing prepairs you for the third track of "Cut Up Piano And Xylophone," which creates one of the most liquid, beautiful tracks I've heard in a long time, defeating Nobukazu Takemura at his own game of cut-up. While "Tone Guitar And Drum Noise" again takes a more freestyle approach, "Five Four Child Voice" is built from a nicely progressing guitar and drum melody (along with some chimes and sampled and cut-up kids voices) that doesn't sound the slightest bit long at almost 10 minutes.
Even if (which is a hard if) none of the first 7 tracks on the disc won you over, the disc finishes up with two more amazing tracks. On "Harmonics," the trio layers plucked strings to perfection while occassionally dropping in the strum of an acoustic guitar. It sounds simple in premise, but believe me, it works. The album closes with a fluttering drum machine and more layers of warm guitars (along with a touch of falsetto vocals, horns, wind-up musicboxes, and several other small, but effective touches) that build into the amazing "Long Singing." It's one of the best tracks on an album full of great tracks, and probably one of the more pretty songs I've heard this year. So, while Happiness never gets up and rocks, it's solid from beginning to end and will hopefully give the attention that they deserve. At this point, they're pretty much on top of their game, and considering they're all still youngsters, I can only hope that they continue to create beautiful music.