Four Tet releases Pink
Kieran Hebden, better known as Four Tet, is possibly one of the most exciting people currently making electronic music. Taking ideas from a vast array of musical styles such as free jazz, UK garage, house, and hip hop, Hebden molds compositions that feel organic, warm, and inviting, instead of throwing together a grab bag of mismatched styles and samples.
Listening to any of Hebden’s work makes it hard to overlook his origins as a member of the post-rock band Fridge. While his output as Four Tet would never be considered post-rock, it is perhaps the purest manifestation of the genre’s ideals: lush musical landscapes tethered by innovative uses of acoustic instruments and samples of nature that are emotionally striking and aurally stimulating. Four Tet is, in many ways, more post-rock than most post-rock bands.
It is this entrenchment in organic production and lushness that makes Hebden’s new album, Pink, so difficult to digest. Upon first listen, it is hard to believe that the same producer who released the gorgeous and divine-sounding There is Love in You two-and-a-half years ago could release the more cool, mechanistic, and club-oriented songs that appear on Pink. Only “128 Harps” and “Locked” are representations of the Four Tet sound prevalent on previous albums.
While there is a lot going on in “128 Harps” — drums, a wordless vocal sample, and harps mesh over the shimmering of a tambourine army — the song is surprisingly relaxed. While “Locked” sounds nothing at all like “128 Harps,” it also manages to sound very Four Tet; the disjointed drumbeat lopes on endlessly before synths gradually enter, culminating in a catchy, repetitious riff. The surprising inclusion of dubstep-influenced bass wobble, however, is what really sets the song’s momentum and signals its true nature, looping disparate instruments and styles against each other to form a harmonious amalgam.
The previously unreleased “Lion” also bears a surprising resemblance to Four Tet’s older material. The song starts off dominated by a stereotypical “uhn-tiss” dance beat with odd, almost yelping samples, and ends carried by a catchy thumb harp loop and synths.
This is not to say that all of the other songs are bad. “Pyramid” is essentially a more club-friendly “Angel Echoes,” with its looping vocal samples. “Jupiter” begins with moody and cold synths before launching into an upbeat drum loop anchored with grimey bass, climaxing with a simple but incredibly engaging vocal sample.
The only real dud on Pink is “Peace for Earth,” which is a failure both as a song and as a component of the album. Not only does the ambient soundscape chafe uncomfortably with the other songs, but it is also cheesy, predictable, and stumbles over the line between atmospheric and boring.
Pink isn’t really an album as much as it is a collection of singles; only “Peace for Earth” and “Lion” were not previously released. This isn’t a release targeted at diehard fans, who probably own all of the previously released singles already, or toward new fans, who will not find much that represents Four Tet’s back catalogue. Instead, Pink is for the casual fan or the lazy diehard.