Menu | Rating System | Guest Book | Archived Reviews:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

  Four Tet  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:

I have a basic mistrust of "hype". I talked about this a bit the first time i saw Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, so i won't go into it too much here. Let's just say that a lot of people told me that Rounds was one of the best albums ever. Given the fact that Four Tet is the solo project of Kieran Hebden, drummer in the post-rock band Fridge (who i adore), and given that i rather enjoyed Pause, his previous solo album, i was inclined to believe the hype. This is in direct contrast to what Flava Flav once said, and much to my own dismay. (Note to self: "Don't believe the hype".)

Basically, this is a good album. It contains lots of interesting little laptopped sounds and glitchy beats. It features some interesting melodies, and in general is rather listenable. It is not, however, something that will transform mankind as a species, nor is it an instant masterpiece that will change music in its wake. In fact, i find that Rounds does very little to advance the IDM genre, and instead serves as good summation of where IDM is at this point in its existence. That is to say, well, this is a pretty generic album. It's good, but it breaks no boundaries.

Which is fundamentally disappointing to me because, well, i believed the hype. So i have taken many months to try to come up with an impartial assessment of it. I hope that i have succeeded....

What distinguishes Four Tet from the crowd is that Hebden is an actual drummer and not just a programmer. There are many drum loops used on this album that sound really clear and fresh, as if he recorded himself drumming and then messed around with the tracks on his laptop. This makes the beats on this album fresh and exciting. And i suppose it helps that Hebden is a pretty good drummer to begin with.

All of the songs are catchy. Hebden has a pretty good sense of melody, even making some of the tracks hummable, a feat which is too uncommon in the IDM world. Still, of the ten tracks on Rounds, four of them really stand out to me.

She Moves She combines a really good beat with banjo and tinkling wind chime sounds. It's an interesting tune done with unusual sound samples. The melody is pretty catchy, and the whole song ends by disintegrating -- as if the files that make up the individual sounds just got corrupted in mid-play. Very nice.

Piano and a good rock drum riff (heavy on the kick drum) combine in Unspoken. The drumming really makes this one, although the piano, computer noises, and eventually even jazzy horns that are layered in, help to flesh it out. The beat though, that's the attraction for me. Hebden is one excellent drummer.

I said above that most of the drumming sounds like Hedbden sampled his own performances, but on And They All Look Broken-hearted i don't get that impression. The drumming here sounds old and scratchy and almost mono, like it came off a very old jazz record. He has cut it up and spliced it into interesting loops, and then layered some classical guitar over it for a fascinating dynamic contrast.

Finally, Hebden wraps up Rounds with a song that sounds like it might have come off of Happiness, from his band Fridge. The aptly named Slow Jam features a nice guitar bit, good drumming, dynamic bass work, and strange glitch noise. If you take out the glitch, you end up with something that sounds remarkably like Fridge, which is a good thing.

Now, those 4 are the tracks that really stand out to me. Rounds contains 6 more tunes, and i cannot point at any one and say that it is weak. That is to say, Hebden mantains a pretty consistent level of quality in his work.

Overall, despite my residual disappointment that this album is not, in fact, the earth-shattering masterpiece i was led to believe, this is a damned fine album. If you have enjoyed The Postal Service, The Notwist, Her Space Holiday, or any of Hebden's earlier work, then you need to pick up a copy of Rounds.

Related Links:

Tracers was lucky enough to see Hebden drum live with Fridge back in 2001.
Happiness, by Fridge.


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Album Review menu.