Saturday, February 6, 2010

Four Tet before and after

Most of you out there have probably never heard of Four Tet, and that needs to remedied immediately because he is, without exaggeration, one of the most influential/kickass musicians of the 2000's. I've been pounding the new Four Tet album this week, and its totally unique awesomeness made me go back and rediscover his back catalogue, which has held up incredibly well over time. Let's take a quick tour through Tet country:

Kieran Hebden dropped his first solo LP as Four Tet in 1999, on the back of his success with his band Fridge. If "Dialogue" sounds unadventurous now, it's only because it's style has been bitten so thoroughly. So when I say that it's a little Caribou, a whole lot of Blockhead, and a dash of Dangermouse, understand that it's most likely the other way around. With it's jazzy undertones and meticulous study of sound, "Dialogue" is a good introduction to the Four Tet vibe - it's music that demands headphones and rewards close attention. Here's my favorite cut off the album, Chiron:

With "Pause" in 2001 and then "Rounds" in 2003, Hebden moved further and further away from hip-hop and towards a new sound that eventually became labeled as folktronica (a genre he more or less created). What these albums revealed was a love of found sound that borders on obsession - not just musical instruments, either, but any kind of noise. The song featured in the video above, with it's backbeat formed by the haunting wheeze of a breathing machine, is just one example. The way a guitar string is plucked, the way a record crackles in the background, the way a snare drum rattles after it's hit - everything matters. In Four Tet's world, every note is it's own melody. It feels ridiculous to type that, but it's true.

Seriously, I could mancrush on this dude for days - his ability to bridge the acoustic/digital divide, his incredible collabs with Burial and Steve Reich, his personality and attitude, embodied by the fact that on his new album he includes a track that's just a recording of his godson's heartbeat, as a gift. But instead of that, you should go listen. Listen to "Parks" and "She Move She", preferably on a train and preferably late at night. Listen to "Sing" and "This Unfolds" off the new album and notice how his style can evolve without ever really changing. Listen to it all, and then relisten again and again, because this is one of the few musicians who's worth it every single time.


Anonymous said...

interesting post. I would love to follow you on twitter.

Brandon said...

What a weird thing to say. I accept: @beelarson

Sanju Sebastian said...

he never collaborated with steve reich; i think you mean steve reid, the jazz drummer.

Brandon said...

Ahh, good catch Sanju, I did have the wrong Steve