Release Date: Oct 15, 2013
Record label: TEXT
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
Four Tet is on one of the most pristine rolls in electronic music history. Ever since There is Love in You (the album that solidified his move from the safety of the forest to the tempting "womp" of the club), Four Tet has scarcely produced an average tune. Beautiful Rewind continues in the same vein, and then some. Unlike Four Tet's previous LP, Pink, which was basically just a compilation of mostly released material, Beautiful Rewind is full of never-before-heard gems.
By now it's difficult to trace the Kieran Hebden of "Pyramid" or "Peace For Earth" back to the mellow, hip-hop-influenced electronica of records like Pause or Rounds. In the last five or six years, Hebden has become devoted entirely to dance music, establishing himself as one of the UK's most in-demand and adventurous DJs. Whether through recorded mixes like 2011's FabricLive.
From the melodic sweep of Rounds to the syncopated jazz/dance vibe of There Is Love in You, we've come to expect the unexpected from Kieran Hebden, a.k.a. Four Tet. Upon first listen, Beautiful Rewind implies a somewhat anticipated backward glance. Four Tet, however, is a contextual project, gathering and collecting as it mutates, birthed from its previous incarnation, but transformed by its environment, so that any homage to the past escapes mawkishness.
Kieran Hebden's first proper Four Tet album since 2010's There Is Love in You, Beautiful Rewind follows a string of short-form releases that included collaborations with Burial, Thom Yorke, and Rocketnumbernine, in addition to singles issued on the producer's Text label. It consists of concise, stylistically scattered tracks that are alternately pretty and scuffed up, with the latter quality notably inspired by garage, grime, and funk aired on U.K. pirate radio stations.
It popped up last week with little fanfare, heralded by a few gnomic communiques from the artist on Twitter, but Kieran Hebden's seventh album as Four Tet could have withstood waves of hype. Hebden has exhibited a growing fascination with house music in recent years; here, the Londoner harks back to early-90s rave culture, but without forfeiting his up-to-date sensibilities or typically broad range of references. Opener Gong plunges us straight into a clamour of shifting gamelan beats, dreamy garage vocals and pirate radio interference, which recurs throughout.
“No pre-order, no YouTube trailers, no iTunes stream, no Spotify, no Amazon deal, no charts, no bit coin deal, no last minute Rick Rubin”. This was the statement that greeted Keiran Hebden’s announcement of latest album ‘Beautiful Rewind’. Four Tet’s rejection of current trends is refreshing and reactionary. Hebden’s back to basics approach is one that encapsulates ‘Beautiful Rewind’, abridging forty minutes of sample based, emotively dense electronica.‘Beautiful Rewind’ is Hebden’s most undisguised club-focused album thus far.
Brows were furrowed and lips pursed when "Kool FM", the advance single from Four Tet's Beautiful Rewind, was released. Gutty and tuff, "Kool FM" appropriated the name of a legendary pirate radio station that existed during the rave and jungle era, abstracting that era's chopter rhythms and throaty MCs. Kieran Hebden has developed a bit of a johnny-come-lately reputation among certain observers, though, his plunges into UK bass music viewed as harmless and well meaning but perhaps a bit awkward.
Four Tet’s music has always evoked movement. From the gently shuffling grooves of 2001’s Pause to the mesmerizing interlocution between animate components that defined his breakthrough album, Rounds, and, indeed, all the way to the meditative, trance-like minimalism of 2010’s There Is Love in You, the compositions of Kieran Hebden have never failed to, in a broad sense, elicit notions of dance; it’s hard not to imagine the ways that the human body might bend and stretch, might spin and jump, might stand still — might, in one way or another, move — in response to Hebden’s music. Pink, last year’s album-length compilation of previously released 12-inch singles, signaled a shift into a more tightly quantized, dance-oriented phase for the Four Tet project, certainly a logical development given the inherent connection to movement that his music has always maintained.
If London's alternative music scene were anthropomorphized, there is every chance that it would look like Kieran Hebden. A scruffy, bookish-looking guy in his mid-30s, based in the trendy Shoreditch/Daltson East End of England's capital city, creating danceable but distinctly under the radar music that appeals—broadly speaking—to the major cities' liberal intelligentsia. His brand of dubstep, along with that of his contemporary Burial, feels like it's at the forefront of progressive music.
Kieran Hebden makes electronic-dance tracks for cosmic states of mind. Beautiful Rewind, the U.K. native's seventh LP as Four Tet, mixes club-ready rhythms with touches of brain-melt psychedelia: "Gong" opens with rumbling drums and shaky metallic clangs active beneath alien-vocal coos, as if lifted from a ritual by some deep-space tribe. Other tracks range from synths-on-the-fritz freakouts ("Parallel jalebi") to mantric spells of samples tweaked through trance-inducing repetition ("Ba teaches yoga").
Kieran Hebden, the quiet force behind the synthesizers of Four Tet, rejects any notion of a singular path to releasing music in 2013. He doesn’t press release sneak peeks at singles or drop teasers for videos. Four Tet pares it down to the basics: Here’s an album I’ve made. It will be released soon.
For all the pastoral comparisons frequently made to Kieran Hebden's work, my most enduring memories of Four Tet over the past decade are actually of him in the dancefloor driving seat: live in an old church in Bristol on 2005's Everything Ecstatic tour, teasing out the latent groove in tracks from that underrated album and its cosier predecessor Rounds. A Bristol club's small second room several years later, dropping So Solid's 'Oh No (Sentimental Things)' to a roomful of dancers just the right age to remember all the words. Sets at Plastic People (pre-redesign).
opinion bySCOTT SWANSON How do we value electronic dance music? Do we require it to have soul, to make us think and feel, to speak to us? Or do we assess it simply by its intrinsic ability to get us off our asses and into the noble and ancient pursuit of rhythmic bodily motion? There is a muted and spectral emptiness at the center of Beautiful Rewind, the seventh album from London’s Kieran Hebden, otherwise known as Four Tet. Once upon a time, Hebden excelled at pulling back the curtain and showing us the ghost in the machine, the bloody human heart at the center of his productions. Like his ex- schoolmate and occasional collaborator Burial, Hebden has a gift for making the synthetic feel organic, as though all the sounds and beats and melodies he traffics in already exist in perfect form, and only need to be plucked from the atmosphere and condensed into four-minute distillations of their combined essence.