Jan 30, 2002 at 12:00 am

With the entrance of Fridge onto the scene in 1997, a virtual cult emerged around the diced, spliced, then refabricated sounds the trio had to offer. Kieran Hebden, the one man behind the project Four Tet, and also a member of Fridge, set out on his own path alongside the group, and he’s at it again.

What is this proverbial “it,” you ask? He is a trickster, hands-down.

A casual listen to the playful and expertly crafted odyssey, Pause (his latest as Four Tet), would give you the impression that he’s quite good at mixing organic sounds with those electronic. And you might be right. Or you could be wrong.

In reality, you’re right and wrong. In spite of the Japanese garden feel of “Parks” or the playground atmosphere of “Glue of the World,” Hebden claims that the final say of all songs lies with the computer — the seeming enemy of all things organic. That the computer is the basis is a claim that makes better sense when approaching the beat-driven “Untangle” and “No More Mosquitoes,” moments that nearly draw you into believing claims that he is quite influenced by hip hop and R&B.

Organic or digital, the idea further blurs the line in an already confusing state of recording, where inputs have more often become computers instead of mixing boards. Musical samples downloaded from the Internet become available for public use, and then are weaved into a bed of electronic wizardry. And therein lies the premier statement that Pause makes — in all of its excellent interludes, times they are a-changin’, and neither nostalgia nor digital fortitude can get anybody around the question of where exactly this record comes from.

Technology has made that decision for us. Which is not to say that the acoustic instrument (or musician for that matter) has no home in today’s recording world, but it certainly is a cause for acknowledgment of “the enemy,” which has made things much easier for the one-person act. You don’t have to own every instrument to produce worthy pieces of music.

As magnificent as his previous outings have been, particularly the 1999 debut full-length, Dialogue, Hebden is building toward an apex in his as-yet brief career. He has learned much since the start of Fridge. What he has learned most is on the subject of competently handling sounds, whatever their source may be.

E-mail Liz Copeland at [email protected].