Release Date: Sep 29, 2017
Record label: Temporary Residence
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Kieran Hebden is the best producer of the past twenty years. Don’t look at me for explication, it’s an inarguable cosmic absolute, I can’t fuck with the laws of physics. Now, unless some of you dweebs are suffering flat-earther syndrome, we can move onto New Energy, Hebden’s ninth album as Four Tet. Considering 2015’s Morning/Evening’s figurative standing as an elongated 12”, New Energy scans as Hebden’s first substantial album in four years; and even then, 2013’s Beautiful Rewind wilted in benign passiveness, functional but bereft of the beauty and idiosyncrasy that’s defined Hebden since his transition from post-rock with his first band Fridge..
Since the late 2000s, Kieren Hebden's work as Four Tet (plus side ventures like Percussions and KH) has explored club culture more thoroughly than his earlier releases, nodding to pirate radio and U.K. garage with albums like Beautiful Rewind and white-label collaborations with producers such as Burial and Terror Danjah. New Energy, his 2017 full-length, seems somewhat ironically named at first, as it finds him revisiting the downtempo sound of earlier productions such as his 2003 breakthrough, Rounds.
Nearing 20 years as an ambassador between indie rock and dance music, Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden has winnowed down the parts that clutter up music-making itself: He declines most interviews and still trots out the same publicity photo that accompanied his 2003 breakout Rounds. But after 2009’s sumptuous There Is Love in You, he took the reins himself, releasing a flurry of albums, experiments, collaborations, and singles on his own, and now keeps up a healthy social network presence on Twitter, Snapchat, and Soundcloud. With his legacy as one of the 21st-century’s finest electronic musicians all but assured, Hebden has become more of a populist, making few distinctions between working with Burial or Skrillex, Terror Danjah or Rihanna..
Kieran Hebden first teased New Energy with the release of "Two Thousand And Seventeen," a track whose title carried some weight. It was a soothing balm to a year already beset by tragedy, political upheaval and frustration, with elegantly trilling strings and a rhythm that recalled Hebden's pre-dance floor days. New Energy, at times both melancholy and hopeful, is a fusion between Four Tet's festival-dominating dance music and his more humble beginnings.
There are those for whom Kieran Hebden’s drift towards the dancefloor is something to lament, and those for whom it was an unexpected flash of excitement in the subtle folktronica master’s largely super-chilled career. But even for the latter camp, there is a growing suspicion that he’s now best experienced live; this ninth album has the expansive, wandering pleasantness of a self-release unbothered by PR hurly-burly. What it doesn’t have is a great deal of tracks to pull you back, bar perhaps the insistent pulse and fluttering vocal samples of Scientists.
Four Tet, the English polymath electronic musician also known as Kieran Hebden, started releasing dance music in 2010. That was the year of There Is Love in You, Hebden.