Rewound and down
Four Tet, aka Kieran Hebden, started making electronic music in the ’90s and boy does it sound like it. His original influences, as he recently told Pitchfork.com, were krautrock, jazz and Aphex Twin, but really, his DNA is electronic dance music (EDM) and while electronic music has evolved a lot, Hebden’s aesthetic hasn’t. It’s all hip-hop loops, twitchy beats and hanging synths, and never really goes anywhere.
I really respect his intentions. He said that he is intrigued by the fact that gospel music is made for God and that he’s trying to make songs that “take people as far away from earth as possible.” But the problem is that the results don’t match that ambition. Nothing really feels like it’s at stake here. It seems that Hebden could go on remixing mildly interesting, repetitive vocals, dance club beats and monotonous synth sounds, forever without ever hitting great heights or embarrassing lows.
Everything here is pleasant enough. “Gong” kicks things off fittingly with a Tricky-like trip-hop vibe, and “Parallel Jalebi” is hypnotic and gets into a great groove – its call-and-response pixie vocals rolling gorgeously throughout. But in most songs, we get two or three interesting things that we’re just left with and then they’re done. Take “Kool FM” for instance. It begins with a standard techno beat that is complimented by a floating synth, and then chased by, again, shakers. And there we are.
One might say that the same can be said for most of the minimal electronic music critics love. But there’s an essential difference between projects like The Field (whose recent release, “Cupid’s Head,” has some transcendent work on it) and Four Tet.
Minimal electronic only gives us a handful of things to work with, but they usually stay superficially similar while subtly progressing until before you know it, a pedestrian combination suddenly becomes amazing.
Four Tet’s gestures are too quick and obvious to really allow anything to happen. And there’s not enough teasing and struggling like there is in Tim Hecker’s curious new “Virgins.” There are just simple ingredients for simple results.