Mesmeric post-everything tableau
Among “experimental” musicians, Kieran Hebden is a rarity, in that his music is colourful and warm. Sure, this 25 year-old Computer Science graduate is cerebral, but with his post-rock band, Fridge, and solo as Four Tet, Hebden has consistently produced clever tunes brim full of humanity.
And never more so than on ‘Rounds’. With his sister on hand to tell him when he was getting “too geeky”, Hebden was determined to make the third Four Tet album both innovate and friendly. The results are extraordinary.
It is, in its own spindly “folktronica” way, as weird as anything Squarepusher has ever produced. NME would love to say that only the dimmest Stereophonics‘ fan will find it frightening, but we’d be lieing. Nonetheless, ‘Rounds’ has melodies to spare. It bristles with a bright, funky energy. Or it moves with all the stately grace and gravitas of, say, Radiohead. Few record sound this now, this timeless, this heartfelt, this side of Bjork at her best.
A lot of electronica producers talk up their fascination with R&B, few integrate those Timbaland jerks ‘n’ jolts as well as Hebden does on opener ‘Hands’. Second track, ‘She Moves She’, boasts a meaty hip-hop beat that would wow Jay-Z. Although, the bursts of Mego-like digital noise might do his head in a bit.
This sets the tone: Hebden creating sassy chassis for some seriously whacked-out musical ideas, that – no matter how mad it gets out there – are never allowed disappear up their own arse. See, the mournful, hyper-speed duelling banjos on ‘Spirit Fingers’. While more straightforward tracks, like ‘As Serious As Your Life’ (which wouldn’t sound that out of place on DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing’), are pulled off with real elan.
Elsewhere, there are moments of deep emotion. They say only love can break your heart, but ‘My Angel Rocks Back And Forth’ (an asthmatic harp-led ballad) will certainly make it ache like hell. As will the muted, sad Chinese jazz of ‘And They All Look Broken Hearted’.
‘Rounds’, then, soul music full of remarkable sonic ideas. “I like a sense of melancholy and I like pop music,” says Hebden. ‘Rounds’ expands our understanding of both. Essential.