Review Summary: Pink is something of a victory lap for Hebden, and he'll be damned if he was ever going to release it any other way.
While it might be obvious to assume that the mark of any great collaboration is how well two separate forces can work together, it's perhaps even more tantalizing to see how well that collaborative project can reverb within its conspirators long after the fact. For Kieran Hebden, a man who has constantly been accused of always working, the claim must also be made that at the same time he's also always listening
as well. For when Hebden (as Four Tet) writes a tune, he brings the whole world with him. In his universe, there are no genre parameters, no limitations on backgrounds, or localized sounds that should be limited to that particular area. He's a laptop globetrotter, a traveling enthusiast who writes music as a journey, and through him can we see the world, even if it is at the expense of only seeing it through his eyes. This makes mapping out a trajectory or setting up any kind of expectations somewhat pointless and irrelevant; the trick with any Hebden material is to simply allow yourself to get lost in his melodic oblivion, and leave that kind of lingering crossfire for the boys in the basement to worry about. Pink
however, is something of a different entity for the artist then; his usual tricks are still on display (the cut-up vocals, the shimmering synthesizers), but there's a definite intent to this release that gives it a rather definitive statement. Which could inadvertently end up tipping the scales against this release, but behind the twinkling keys and the earnest melodies lies something of great insistence, a pulse that seems to be pushing Hebden further and further towards the idea of making bona-fide "dance music".
Which could perhaps be a direct result of his recent turn behind the decks at Fabric, his mix of course an exercise in attempting to recreate just what it feels like to step into those hallowed halls. The sounds of traffic outside, the music hitting you not directly, but instead bouncing off the walls allowing you to absorb it only as a kind of shockwave, the bass making a mockery of your nervous system. He may have also recently sold out Brixton Academy in near record-breaking time, but Pink
represents a far more intimate affair, with Hebden playing the part of a witch doctor standing on high leading his small but dedicated following. It's also a far simpler offering from the artist, and that reasoning might be partially inspired by the fact that Pink
isn't really a proper album. With 75 percent of the material having already been released, Tet's latest is instead something of a rounding up of his restless imagination, a gathering of his various singles and 12" releases that he's put out on his own Text imprint over the last 12 months. This doesn't lessen the immediacy of the release's individual components however, but with every track seemingly recorded at different times, in different places and perhaps, in an entirely different frame of mind, it's hard to find any kind of continuity or a sense of familiarity. Instead it's a rather dichotomic release, an idea only exacerbated by its inception, and as a whole it's something that's just a little difficult to get excited about.
It's not without earnest that Hebden attempts to convey his new found appreciation for more volatile experimentation though, though his enterprises are still carried out with the same level of cheeky mirth that's dominated his vast catalog of work to this date. So it's certainly not for lack of trying, or an inability to display an acute eye for detail, when some of the material here fails to hit quite as readily as it otherwise normally would have. Both 'Jupiters' and '128 Harps' were successes when they existed in nothing but their own distinct little universes, with the former spending its time swimming in a hazy sea of washed out synths, an overture that continued long after Hebden introduces a slovenly half-time beat into the equation complete with bubbling arpeggios and street-sweeping hi-hats. Here though, they're extended interludes, warm-up routines before the big show (seemingly) returns. In constantly adapting and experimenting it's understandable that Tet isn't going to hit the nail on the head every time, be it either through mismatched placement or when he perhaps wanders just a little too far beyond his own pastures; 'Lion', when compared to 'Locked' for instance, is simply far too polished and sterile. Throughout his use of pronounced deep pads and the occasional ratcheting 808's, there's a sense that Hebden might simply be aiming at something just a little out of his reach. At times it's an almost somber reappraisal of early 90s ambient house and at others a full-blooded Detroit banger - it's a little of everything and nothing all at the same time. He defines the track simply by its beat, and in this confinement does he lose himself; he might be raising hell in those four walls, but it's within those walls that he remains.
'Ocoras' is cut from a similar cloth, but here the simplicity instead works towards the track rather than against it. Comprised as it is almost solely on a self-perpetuating bassline, a late arrival in the form of Tet's usual operatic maladies doesn't hinder the near hypnotic quality of this industrial-strength techno jaunt. It's a trick that he's used before but here it feels a little deadlier, more alive than anything he's similarly attempted in the past. And while 'Peace For Earth' may feel like the centerpiece of the album, with its Boards Of Canada feel of warm nostalgia and endless fields it's perhaps 'Locked' that signifies the true heart of Pink
. A rather grand gesture, given its placement, but with its thick-moustachioed 70s swing of a beat, it's impossible to not get caught up in its rollerblading San Fernando Valley vibe. It's a track that's sloppy in the greatest of ways, with lopsided guitar licks that droop and sag over the jittery beat beneath it. And while his daft attempt at a little dubstep imperfection certainly discombobulates the listener, it's Hebden simply at his most jiving, a slippery and sliding tour de force of beachfront inebriation.
For the die-hard Four Tet fan who jumps over every release the man has put out, Pink
isn't really going to offer much outside of a rather flash piece of packaging that coincidentally happens to store all of his recent tunes in one convenient place. For others though, it's simply going to be another Four Tet release, which is a lot better than a whole lot from everyone else. Just ignore the rather fractured psyche this one inevitably was always going to suffer from, and realize that it doesn't revolve around a big bang of sorts, but rather the soft but steady appraisal of fans as they slowly applaud their hero. Pink
is something of a victory lap for Hebden, and he'll be damned if he was ever going to release it any other way.