Whether through dewy-eyed computer-animation’s marvels or Sony’s Aibo, today’s “digerati” yearn to simulate real life through hardware. The same goes for “laptop musicians,” but few sound as warm and organic as the one-man band Four Tet, which is Kieran Hebden. Using extensive samples of instruments struck (gongs, trap kits, chimes) and plucked (guitars, banjos, harps), he transforms circuitry into loamy mulch for loop-based music to take root. When stitched together with a human touch, the scraps of disparate striking and strumming form an ear-enveloping tapestry.
Trying to distinguish between the actual and the virtual in Four Tet’s music, however, is beside the point, since sounding live or “real” was never Hebden’s goal. He doesn’t conceal his digital inseams, and at times (as with the keyboard clatter throughout 2001’s album, “Pause”), he even flaunts them. Like Fridge, Hebden’s post-rock band, Four Tet’s pastoral soundscapes own up to the sentimentalities they scramble. This sincerity — as found on his latest, “Rounds” — stands in direct contrast to the inside-joke irreverence of other data-DJ projects. His slowly building slow-burners eschew the time-signature tailspins and absurdist non sequiturs found so often in laptronica. For instance, samples of a rubber ducky placed in the melancholic closer, “Slow Jam,” reinforce the mood, instead of provoking sniggering. Layered over glutinous hip-hop beats, most loops rise and fall in sensible places, but even the few jarring moments end up fitting snugly into the rhythmic puzzle.
Read the full review at The Japan Times Online.