(Domino) After first introducing Four Tet on the album Dialogue, it was with the stunning follow-up Pause that Kieran Hebden really turned discerning electronic music heads all the way on. A lovely amalgamation of gentle hip-hop beats, obscure folk influences and music-making software found on the net, the album elicited endless accolades and even generated cheeky new genre tags like "folktronic." The resulting trajectory sent Hebden everywhere from tours with Radiohead and Madlib to remixes for the likes of Aphex Twin and Beth Orton (whos recruited him to produce her next album). Somewhere in all of that sonic madness he found time to conjure up Rounds, which simultaneously builds and deconstructs the strides made with Pause, resulting in an even more organic blend of quiet but muscular compositions. Opening with the woozily beautiful warm-up "Hands," the album sounds like it was composed by a man in love, especially considering song titles like "She Moves Me" (an Asian-influenced plucked groove augmented by jagged guitar bursts and distant bells) and the sweet, heartfelt harp tones of "My Angel Rocks Back and Forth." Hebdens sense of humor emerges on "Spirit Fingers" (possibly an homage to teen cheerleading flick Bring It On?), sounding like an army of sped-up mandolins madly carousing with a kinky sampler. This whimsical approach also lightens up "As Serious As Your Life," which dances on a funky guitar melody and a stilted jazz back beat. Closing on the peacefully epic "Slow Jam," Rounds proves that quiet is indeed the new loud.
Permanent Ink -- From URB Magazine