This band-selected collection of tracks from Fridge’s early years at the Output Recordings label (now defunct) comes across as an homage from the band members to their younger, more experimental and ambitious selves. It is less about the songs themselves than about the evolution they chart in the band, from its origins in percussion-driven garage rock on “EH4-800 Phase Shifter” and “Lojen,” to the more layered, melodic, sample-heavy “Orko.” Early Output delineates Fridge’s prolific progression, highlighting Kieran Hebden, Adem IIlhan and Sam Jeffer’s enthusiasm to experiment with genres despite their limited resources and technical talent.
Amid the flirtations with funk on “For Force,” or the broody distorted rock of tracks like “Helicopter,” “A Swerve and a Spin,” “Cassette” and “Zedex Ay Ti Wan” we can gleam traces of amateur sampling, while on “EDM 1,” “Concert in Your House,””A Slow” and “Lign” (the 34-second extended version) there are hints of the melodic beauty that would later come to underpin much of Fridge and Four Tet’s music. “Angleposied” and “Astrozero” are highlights, moments where the experiments with rock and electronica click and Fridge finds a full, mature sound.
There is very little new material on here. Most of the tracks have been chosen from Fridge’s first two albums, Ceefax and Semaphore, or from the early EPs (previously compiled on Sevens & Twelves). Despite its hypnotic elegance, “Distance,” as the only one of the six new tracks to clock in at over one minute, is not going to be enough to entice fans who already have Fridge’s entire back catalog. The amateur, home-recorded production rules it out for curious newcomers (try Happiness instead.) The true value of Early Output is how it recalls Fridge at its onset.