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At Times Great, But Missing the Deep Production
on January 13, 2011
Kieran "Four Tet" Hebden has released a giant stack of records over the last 10 years. EPs, singles, remix records, proper Four Tet albums, limited edition 12" projects, jazz fusion collaborations with Steve Reid, DJ records and more. His best work, 2003's Rounds, is rightfully considered to be one of the essential electronic albums ever recorded. All that said, Hebden has only released two full-blown Four Tet records since the star-turning Rounds: 2005's Everything Ecstatic (similar to Rounds, though not nearly as deep or affecting); and the just released There Is Love in You, the fifth proper release under the Four Tet name.
Hebden's 2008 EP, the much anticipated Ringer, signaled a change in direction for the Four Tet moniker. Where he had once utilized very organic, cut-and-paste sounding production style similar to the work of DJ Shadow and other hip-hop and trip-hop inspired producers, Hebden here began incorporation quite a bit of live instrumentation, focused mostly on keyboards that brought to mind 80s-era film scores. Cheesy, that's the word. So, no, the excitement for There Is Love in You was not exactly notable; Ringer wasn't a bad record, per se, but it offered little of the repeat value of Rounds, Everything Ecstatic or even the Steve Reid records.
There Is Love in You isn't the letdown Ringer was but it's also not the major triumph Rounds was. Does Hebden put on a clinic as far as electronic production goes? Absolutely. But that doesn't necessarily mean that he's released a triumphant record. In fact, Love feels a bit too mulled over at all times. Unnatural, even. Once described by critics as the perfect mix of organic and programmed, Hebden's work has lost its organic touch, in doing so, losing much of its repeat value. Save for a couple of tracks, most of the material here is a mix of epically produced IDM and ... well ... background music.
Does the new sound make Love a bad record? No, of course not. But it seems that the days of Four Tet making records that you can party to, sleep to, read to, get busy to and, most importantly, lose yourself in, are gone. Instead, we get one of the most deeply produced background records ever. A Tangerine Dream for a new generation of ears. Nothing wrong with that.