Kieran Hebden has been releasing compelling electronica as Four Tet, for more than a decade, a significant achievement in a genre that thrives on the newest sounds. Four Tet's third album, 2003's Rounds, rightfully received widespread acclaim for its use of organic samples. Dubbed "folktronica", he's since been distancing himself from that tag, while his reputation has grown as a remixer for the likes of Beth Orton and Radiohead.
On 2008's,Ringer, Four Tet acquired a harder edge, perhaps as a response to the inexhaustible parade of Brooklyn bands and their buzzy, retro synths. But it's a bit late to be discovering the joys of Krautrock. Hebden's strength is in finding dry, found-sound juxtapositions within the pretty frameworks he sets up. When his music takes a more aggressive turn, it sounds strained.
There Is Love In You, is a return to form, but with diminished power. There are always unexpected pleasures when listening to Four Tet. The handmade claps and snaps of "Plastic People". The strange squeaking and ominous bells of "Love Cry". Glitches, scrapes and taps that other artists might not find assertive enough, are featured in Hebden's elegantly crafted compositions. These analog sounds mix in, improving everything around them, informing and elevating the digital grooves so many settle for.
But there is also a tediousness seeping into Hebden's work. The surprises are fewer and farther between. A New Age quality that was deftly avoided before is regretfully emerging, most prominently in his use of female vocals that seem way too slick and pretty. "Angel Eyes" sounds almost as if he sampled Sarah McLaughlin doing her warm up exercises. When drums are employed they are relegated to the four on the floor beat of a kick drum and the thump-thump-thump-thump becomes monotonous. It's surprising that after his previous collaborations with jazz drummer Steve Reid, Hebden doesn't seem to have taken away much rhythmically.
Experimental electronic music is all about sound and intention. Applying a critical eye to it is like trying a case with no evidence. Any kid with keyboards can jump right into the IDM/Glitch/Downtempo world or create a new sub-genre with the click of a mouse. An influential sound artist like Hebden can do better. You just couldn't prove it in a court of law. -Dan Siegler
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MP3:"Plastic People" - There Is Love In You
Four Tet on Myspace