Review Summary: Kieran Hebden is adding hydrocarbon chains to the electronica field, and it sounds great.
I love synthetic things. It is usually quite easy to access and instantly enjoyable. I drink several Jones Soda's a day, eat (I am assuming) incredibly processed meat, and take vitamins to make up for the loss of nutrients I get from all of the almost literal *** I actually putting into my body. Hell, this is probably the lifestyle for most people in this new era of continually increasing lazyness. Sometimes, though, I just have that feeling to reach towards a fruit or some leafy vegetables. Upon eating said food, I instantly appreciate my decision. There is something about eating natural foods that just feels right, as if things were just intended to be that way. Each bite just gets better and better until right afterwards I go straight back to my horrible unhealthy lifestyle.
This scenario very much describes Four Tet as a whole. Face it, bands like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails are very much in the forefront of music today. All of the bleeps, bloops, and irritatedly annoying usage of the emotionless droning computer voice, are being forced into our ears one way or another. This isn't meant to discredit those musicians or to say their music will cause heart attacks later on, but to bring to light that there is a whole lot of that alienating type of music being played.
Kieran Hebden (musician behind Four Tet and former member of the post-rock group Fridge) is here to change that for us. Instead of the popular synth-ish computer effects and dance-hall ready bass beats, Four Tet is here to bring life back into the music. He uses many more natural effects and brings more realistic sounding instruments into his post-rock tinged electronica. Most notably the drums. They bring a very retro and surprisingly acoustic feel, taking this album quite down to earth. This is easily one of the most organic electronica albums of the 2000's or, if I dare (man this is going to sound pretentious) ever.
The music simply flows. It goes at a very laid-back pace (save 1 song), just letting the listener sit back and enjoy the ride. It is much like a ride on the ferris wheel. Sure you aren't screaming your lungs out, but still enjoying the ride at its lull pace. You even get to notice the little things going on in the park, things that would just blur by you in anything much faster.
That happens to be the major strength of this album. Not only is it powerfully relaxing, but there are so many things going on that each repeated listen brings out a new gem in each song. Which is good, because there are some very strange effects placed into this album, most notably being in the final song "Slow Jam." Instruments such as tamborine and a rubber duckie. Yes a rubber duckie. While that might sound like an extreme turn off, and it is, at first. After the initial "what the f..." the song builds upon itself and incorporates the high-pitched squeak to add to the flow, rather than continuing with the "look at me! I am so cool with a rubber duckie in my song!" Some other effects used are wind chimes and some techno-ish blurbs, but once again, do not detract from the flow.
A very logical question now, is how does an album with practically every song being at a slower pace contine to keep interest all the way through. The first and most obvious solution was the placement of the fastest song within the album. "Spirit Fingers" is roughly halfway through at an almost breakneck speed. With what I believe to be an intense wailing on sitars, the song certainly brings back any attention that might have been slipping away. Another trick placed within Rounds is the choppiness of effects used within each song. Many songs will be in deep groove when suddenly either stops or is interruped by another effect. It is probably this tactic that really brings out the organic feel of this album. Without these breaks the music would quickly feel overproduced, as many others with the more techno beats tend to do. Finally, it is the sheer amount of themes within each song. He can jump from the relaxing-yet-somehow-bumpin' song "She Moves She" to the beautifully ballad-esque duo of "First Thing" and "My Angel Rocks Back and Forth."
This album is definitely a must buy, especially if one is looking for a break from the tediousness of some music that is being produced today. So just sit back, relax, and let the music wash over you. Or sit up, pay attention, and notice all of the work and enjoy all of the little things that really brings this album together as a whole. Whichever you prefer, I suppose.
Recommended Tracks: It is best if you listen to the album as a whole, but my fave's were...
She Moves She