Review Summary: A delicate kind of sunshine
One of the great misconceptions about electronic music is that is has no emotion, warmth or complexity. To the uninitiated listener, when one thinks of electronic music, one thinks of overprocessed four on the floor beats and boneheaded wubs laid over the caterwauling of some never-quite made-it pop singer blaring through club speakers. Even when confronted with techno gods Autechre or Aphex Twin, the electronic newbie would be unlikely to say that their music can be described as "emotional" per se. Most electronic music that does give off a sense of emotion generally has a bleak, isolated, urban feel to it; the sense of walking alone through a city at night in an insomniac haze, or as with Aphex Twin, a creeping sense of dread, of general unease and darkness. Rare is the electronic album that gives off a sense of warmth or light. Pause is just such an album.
A big element of what makes Pause so immediately inviting is the heavy use of acoustic instrumentation. Acoustic guitar can be heard throughout the album, played in a fingerpicked style that blends seamlessly with the electronic elements, most noticeably on the opening number Glue Of The World
as well as Hegemony One
and Everything is Alright
. The drums are warm and natural sounding for the most part, providing energetic, down-tempo dance beats akin to the typical trip-hop beat, acting as the perfect base to the laid back atmosphere. Throughout the album the samples are mainly of various acoustic instruments, most interestingly the Japanese Koto on Parks
and an expertly placed harp on the otherwise electronic Untangle
. Most of the electronic samples on the album are there to provide texture and depth to the melodies of the instruments, whether it be the clacking computer that acts as a recurring motif of the album, the stretched samples fading in and out on Glue Of The World
the ominous squeaks and buzzes on No More Mosquitoes
or the tinkling ambiance of the intro to Parks
There are few electronic artists who can make music this vibrant. The music is fluid, soft, like the sun coming out just after a spring rain. And like many of those instances after the rain there is the odd unsettling moment when the clouds threaten to return, casting a pallor over the day. That moment is when No More Mosquitoes
shifts the mood uncomfortably, the odd electronic noises buzzing like a threatening storm, a child singing the title of the song in eerie repetition. This moment breaks up the serenity that has dominated the album thus far, refreshing and giving it a newfound sense of purpose, making the acoustic ambiance of Tangle
a necessary breath of air as the clouds roll back.
The main sense that one gets listening to this album is one of life and light, of a warm spring day spent in contemplation. There is a sense of inner peace to Four Tet's work, a serenity that carries over each track, only slightly broken up by the aforementioned No More Mosquitoes
. This consistency has a tendency to make the songs blur together instead of having them remaining distinct entities. The listener may be surprised to find that 3 tracks have gone by without them noticing. This is the only detriment to Pause, as initially there aren't enough standout moments to keep your attention, at least on first listen. But in between the subtle moments that don't jump at you immediately, but bounce into your consciousness on the third or fourth listen there is enough melody and nuance to keep the album enjoyable. If you enjoy electronic music even slightly, or even if you just need a soundtrack to a summer day, this is one of the best albums you can have.