Review Summary: Kieran Hebden's latest venture draws heavily from traditional venues of electronic music, yet still maintains the sense of bold sonic exploration we have come to expect from a Four Tet release.
“Kool FM,” the lead single off the latest Four-Tet full length Beautiful Rewind
was met with a degree of backlash from long-time fans who found the new house-inspired direction to be a concerning, unwelcome departure. While there is indeed a retreat from the live instrumentation in which Four Tet’s aesthetic draws its tendencies from, to call Beautiful Rewind
a dance or techno album is a gross exaggeration.
Instead, the album finds Four Tet still crafting densely textured sonic soundscapes, only now there is indeed a house-inspired aesthetic that finds Hebden adhering to relatively traditional standards of form and structure. While prior records felt meticulously pieced together, on Beautiful Rewind
there is a greater emphasis on natural progression and a gradually building, basic sense of sonic exploration. The tracks “Ba Teaches Yoga” and “Unicorn” are not only the albums strongest moments, but both seem cut from a similar structural mold. Both rely heavily on interwoven loops that build into a drifting, multi-textured soundscape. They are breathtakingly ethereal moments that represent Hebden’s most escapist tracks to date.
It is a bit hard to come to terms with how “Kool FM” with its uninspired, obnoxious vocal sample and bass wobble, fits into the record’s cohesive vision. And yet, repeated listens suggest that it might be the record’s most complex, lasting, and polarizing moment. The title itself combined with the seemingly basic structure and sampling suggest what can be viewed as a satire of contemporary dance culture. Indeed, the track’s gritty backdrop features a melancholy, grim synth that seems far too dark to appeal to a mass legion of club-goers. Even on a track that is strikingly simplistic in form, Hebden refuses to create something that can be pidgeon-holed into a particular scene or genre.
is an album that feels cohesive while still maintaining a consistent sense of exploration and movement. Tracks that feel starkly different in tone and mood are bound together by similar stylistic flourishes, like African vocal samples or various percussive flourishes. There is a running, constant dichotomy between the primal and the synthetic, yet the result is a seamless sonic narrative that proves consistently interesting. While the album does have a few brief hiccups (“Crush,” “Ever Never”) it is best when experienced from the perspective of a single, unified, bold vision- one successfully carried out by one of the most influential producers making music today.