While his career has been relatively autonomous—much of his output has been self-released on Nonplace—Friedman's music has lately been championed by dance music's leftfield, as evidenced by appearances at Club Der Visionaere, Freerotation and Labyrinth. There's a healthy appetite for the alchemy provided by Friedman's unique style, where nonconformist rhythms meet organic and electronic instrumentation. The various parts of his music surge forth with purpose yet play out with a delicate touch.
Anthology 1980-2017 shows that this approach has been his calling card for a long time. Take the spellbinding run of "Sorcier," "Nerfs D'Acier" and "Intrication," recorded in 1994, 1999 and 1996, respectively. Though less refined than recent material, these tracks are astounding in their fragile beauty. If the complexity of Friedman's music has increased with time, the music has always had a sensitive side. "En Bu 2," first released in 2012, has an unsettling sense of urgency, but the nagging string plucks and stabs are offset by subtly beautiful tones caught up in the whirling percussion. "Monkhide" shows it's not always the drums that dictate things. Here, sweeping drones and pads, embellished with grainy overtones, guide the music's course.
Listening to the three previously unreleased tracks from the '80s, it's remarkable how much of Friedman's sonic identity was there from the start. "Ochlott," from 1988, may have strains of post-punk unease in its bass and discordant keys, but it's still limber, funky and otherworldly in the same way as, say, "Acroagnosis," from 2016. The melodic progression, hypnotic pulse and repeated phrases of 1985's "Sayonara" are a clear forerunner to what would come afterwards. These tracks offer the most fascinating insight into the progression Friedman has undergone in his time, and how clear his mission has been from the outset.