This new eight-track album from Four Tet, otherwise known as Kieren Hebden, is undoubtedly one for the headphones. With reverberating bass lines, repetitious loops and funky percussion, these tunes are best played at full volume and rammed as far into your ears as humanly possible. Got a long flight coming up that you just want to sleep away without being disturbed by the kids in the row behind? You've just arrived at exactly the right place.
This album has been, to say the least, a long time in the making or - more accurately put - releasing. Over the last two years, the London-born DJ has been quietly releasing vinyl-only singles, which are now presented even more subtly for your aural enjoyment in one beautifully-crafted, hand-woven, digitalised download. There has been little to no official advertising for this album, and its success is reliant almost completely on word of mouth and Four Tet's rather outstanding reputation as one of the decades best electronic DJs. Pretty self-important I hear you mutter - but before first impressions make their mark too profoundly, grab yourself an hour or two with nothing else to do, plug yourself in and drift...
Despite the inevitable stitching that this album has gone through, it has emerged out the other side as an irrevocable whole. No jumping from one club-orientated beat to the next - if you take the album as a whole, the breaks between tracks are barely noticeable. Yes, there are most certainly some times when it drifts into background noise, not dissimilar to the faint plonking you might hear in a dentist's waiting room to sooth the nerves of the rattled patients. Penultimate track Peace for Earth is a rather poignant example of this, as well as its successor and album closer Pinnacles, which together create a rather tedious and disappointing end to an otherwise spectacularly skilful album. Four Tet may be trying to push towards a new sound, but these attempts only create bare, concrete-grey monotone with nothing to cushion your ears with.
Start from the beginning, however, and you are greeted, all guns blazing, by Locked, which sets the precedent nicely with its percussion-heavy entrance, and progression into Lion and Jupiters, which has such a powerful bass line that everything else leaves your brain through your nostrils. Pyramids is possibly the highlight, with electronic beats that reverberate round your skull, fragmented acapella and an exit leaves you chasing it out the door begging for more.
It seems to be something of a staple for today's producers and DJs to create an unmistakable sound and then stick with it. If this is the benchmark of genius, then Four Tet is topping the Mensa charts and it is, without doubt, a credit to the man that he can combine and weave so adeptly through house, hip hop, folk, techno and more without losing his way.
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