I love Four Tet pretty unconditionally and have done for over a decade; in 2001, when I returned from university and discovered Audiogalaxy, Everything Is Alright, from his second album, Pause, was the first song I ever downloaded via the internet; I wish I could remember what prompted me to do so, as I’d never heard anything by him before. Not long afterwards, I bought a CD copy of Pause, and I’ve bought every album since, gone back and acquired Dialogue, his debut, and seen him live a couple of times too. He seems to have released records in parallel with Caribou, and they seem to have trodden similar paths (they remix each other regularly).
In 2003 his live show consisted of him sitting at a laptop and destroying his music. Given that I love his music, I didn’t enjoy myself; it seemed bloody-minded, wilful, and solipsistic. Eight years later we saw him at the Caribou-curated ATP festival, where he played a rapturously received set. It was a remarkable transformation, helped no doubt by his long-term residence as DJ at the Plastic People club, where, it seems, he must’ve learnt how to communicate with and move an audience.
There Is Love In You, which was my nominal album of the year in 2010 moves from Four Tet’s “folktronica” (I use the term reservedly) past, where electronic methods and acoustic instrumentation combined joyously, into much more pure electronic textures. The Ringer EP from 2008 had signposted this move fabulously, but still had a hint of experimental insularity about it, whereas There Is Love In You is fully warm, open, communicative, and, most importantly of all, beautiful. When I first heard it, I described it on a forum as “blissful end-of-the-night house, or end-of-the-breakwater ambient, or middle-of-the-city techno”. I stand by that.
Kieran Hebden (as his mum knows him) essentially builds up layer upon layer of intricate melodic loops and sequences, generally underpinning them with late-night four-on-the-floor rhythms, and very occasionally elaborating them with vocal snippets. It works both as music for dancing to and music for listening to; I can attest to it making a beautiful soundtrack to summer walks or bike rides (only ever on dedicated cyclepaths, kids – never use headphones on the roads!), but it also makes for wonderful gazing-out-of-the-window music on misty autumn days. Tracks like This Unfolds and Circling are just intensely pretty, and strangely emotive too; he finds that space between joy and melancholy with what seems like great ease.
Tom Listened: As far as I am concerned, Kieran Hebden shot himself in the foot when I went to see him play at the Exeter Pheonix a few years ago. I have never felt angry at a gig before – disappointed… yes, bored…plenty of times…never angry though. But Four Tet were trying it on. At the time I owned two Four Tet albums – Rounds and Pause – and I liked both, not unequivocably but enough to be looking forward to the gig. Just before the gig Hebden had teamed up with veteran jazz drummer Steve Reid and in concert the two of them produced seemingly random noise for the best part (or worst part) of an hour and a half. It felt like the audience were the butt of their own in joke and I lost a lot of respect for the man that night.
I honestly don’t think I had listened to Four Tet since then…so imagine my disappointment when Nick played There Is Love In You and it turned out to be so fantastic – better to my mind than either Pause or Rounds, loads to explore, lengthy songs to get lost in, a (gentle) funkiness that runs throughout the album, even some vocals every now and again. I’d love to see Four Tet performing proper songs like these in concert, but whether I would be prepared to risk another hour and a half of cacophony is debatable…at least if you buy the album, you know what you’re getting!
Rob listened: I’m shocked to learn than Nick illegally downloaded Four Tet’s music and I hope the police track him down and give him his just desserts.
I love ‘There Is Love In You’, from the beautiful, glowing opening vocal loop to, erm, the end, by which point I’m usually too far gone to worry about what the songs are called or what’s going on at all. It’s a weird record in that respect. I’ve listened to it much more than ‘Pause’, the other Four Tet record I own but in some ways I feel I know it less. Without listening back I can’t recall many of the musical moments, other than that opening vocal, name any of the songs or really bring much of it to mind at all. I confess I use it as a warm and thoroughly pleasant background soundtrack whenever I need to reach for one and it works perfectly. I love the fact that it still evades me. It makes me feel like I won’t wear it out any time soon.
Graham listened: It must be an age thing. I can get the “groove thang” with records like this and it will draw me in when I’m listening, but just don’t feel the need to listen again. I’ve even experimented with some purchases myself with the same results. The hooks and melodies that are devoured by others are wasted on me. I can understand the complexity and ingenuity that go into composition, but maybe I still perceive such music as a threat to establishment rock?