Keiran Hebden is a talented man. Can we agree on this? I've done my time trying to get samples to fit in with my MIDI, and even now it makes little to no sense to me. Making electronic music is not as straightforward as it might appear. Actually, minor correction, if your take on electronic music is the chart dance you hear on Top Of The Pops (is that still going? i'm not sure), then yeah, it's probably easier to make than you think. But to make music that sounds like you've strapped drum-pads at strategic points on your body and fallen down the stairs, there's a knack to this.
Of course, even the lay person will be able to listen to Four Tet and realise that there's a lot more effort gone into it's creation than perhaps we'd first notice - Everything Ecstatic is one of those effortless sounding records, that veers from minimalist charm to meaty, beaty, big and bouncy on the turn of a sixpence, yet never sounds forced.
It's always those records which sound least like they've had lots of work gone in that are among the most impressive to me: having studied the arcane arts of sound engineering, I can confirm that to get your head around producing an album as consistently fascinating as Everything Ecstatic is a mighty feat indeed. And that's not even to mention the fount of creativity which appears to flow directly from Hebden's pores - as I said, it's consistently fascinating, something which is rarely achieved in the world of non-easy-listening electronica. IDM they call it: Intelligent Dance Music, another of those classically offensive pigeonholes. I'll be honest, if I heard of intelligent music, I'd expect it to at least be self-aware, which this quite blatantly isn't. It's a CD. I think what 'they', whoever 'they' are, were referring to by tagging Four Tet as IDM (alongside the likes of Aphex Twin and Squarepusher) is that it's a cut above a more general reference point for dance music, in that you have to think about it to appreciate it. And thats the whole paradox within Four Tet. On the one hand, to get the most out of the record you have to sit down and listen to it, preferably with headphones, and concentrate on what you're hearing. If you do this, you're almost certain to appreciate the complex textures in it, the beautiful Tet trademark of the circular, processed, tuned percussion, the way the seemingly disjointed beats mingle into a cohesive whole. On the other hand, you can put it on, sit back and relax, basking in the calming beauty of the record as you let it wash over you.
Which is great: very few artists are able to appeal on such different levels. So Hat's Off To Hebden, he's done good here. You could argue that perhaps it's not quite as diverse or as danceable as it's predecessor, Rounds (a view I subscribe to myself), but at the same time it's a superb record that rewards the listener and warrants (and stands up to) close inspection.
I've uploaded perhaps the most immediate track from the album, 'Smile Around The Face' - you're sure to find yourself humming it's melody at the most unexpected moments.
On an unrelated note, I'm thinking of putting together Oh Simone's Review Of The Year, it being traditional at this time of year to release a retrospective: CD format, tracks from the top ten and notable shows etc. If anyone's interested in a copy, email me your address or leave a comment or something, and I'll try and wing you a copy. It might not be til the new year, but I'll do my best.