Four Tet


The twelfth Four Tet record offers up a rich sonic collage, club-friendly hi-hat patterns, and plenty of plinky-plonky pleasantness – in short, everything you would expect from the 12th Four Tet record

Kieran Hebden is having his cake and eating it. The Scarlet Pimpernel of folktronica has been seen in the unlikeliest of places recently, such as stepping out with Skrillex and Fred Again for tag team DJ shenanigans in Times Square. It’s a world away from the hitherto popular perception of the producer as fastidious, nerdy and perhaps a little bit worthy, who more and more has beaten a retreat from public life over the last decade or so.

Back in 2010, you couldn’t move for Four Tet remixes jostling for earspace in the hipster joints, and it was around that time too that Hebden began to take stock and shed the baggage that he saw mostly as superfluous to his life, such as dealing with PR and doing rounds of interviews for each release. Albums came and went on Bandcamp with little or no fanfare and those truly engaged fans maintained their presence while the jetsam sank into the ocean of hype. Having perhaps made enough money, Hebden has sagely taken decisions to protect his own sanity like the well rounded person he seems to be, and one can only applaud that even if it makes it impossible to get an advance stream before release day.

Despite recent public bromances and reports of dropping Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’ into sets to please his daughter, Three, Hebden’s twelfth as Four Tet, rarely goes off-piste from what we’ve come to expect. Opener ‘Loved’ could have fitted neatly into almost any album from the last twenty years or so, while ‘Storm Crystals’ exemplifies the patchwork layering of sound that is his stock in trade. Only ‘Daydream Repeat’ hints at this pacier, dance-oriented iteration of Hebben, with its skittering, fizzing hi-hats and tubular swathes of feedback, which then transmogrify into some ice cream van–like pinky-plonkiness. Its arrival as fourth track brings a welcome levity to proceedings and you sort of wish there was more of it.

Nevertheless, if Three is predictable in its lack of surprises, in Hebden’s case, that can only mean what’s on offer is sturdy and assured. As a producer, he’s a master craftsman, working with his head to delicately manipulate the listener’s heart. Everything is pristine and spiritually uplifting, with a track like ‘Gliding Through Everything’ managing to traverse a whole emotional arc in under four minutes. Hebden creates textures like a high-end chocolatier, and where a song like ‘So Blue’ in the hands of, say, Oneohtrix Point Never would only induce frostbite, here it emanates an enveloping warmth redolent of late twentieth-century Moby. For any fans who like consistency in their Four Tet albums, Three will be the magic number. What anybody else thinks will unlikely concern him.

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