Is anyone more consistent right now than Kieran Hebden? Since 1999’s Dialogue, the guitarist turned programmer has released a superior set of electronic music every two years. His work over that time is pioneering: you can tell it’s Four Tet, but it never seems as if he is repeating himself. He peaked with 2003’s Rounds, particularly the stunning “She Moves She,” one of the best singles of the decade. But Everything Ecstatic does something different. By highlighting the drums and focusing on rhythmic qualities, Four Tet nearly reconfigures his whole catalogue as beat-heavy explorations.
The album begins with drums, and most tracks follow suit. Nearly every song is constructed around the instrument, and it’s interesting to go back over Rounds and 2001’s Pause and notice how drum-focused they are as well. The extreme focus here, however, sets it apart, particularly on “Sun Drums and Soil,” which literally begins with a fade into a drum solo.
That’s not to say that Everything Ecstatic is entirely constructed of drums. There are some really unusual sounds to be found, and some unique sample choices, like the vocals on “Smile Around the Face” and the crowd in the background of the eight-minute highlight “Sleep, Eat Food, Have Visions.” These soft touches illuminate the care and thought Four Tet puts into each track and, like on every record he makes, they tend to imply that there is more to be found with each listen.
In a culture that values the constant reinvention of David Bowie and Madonna, perhaps the most difficult thing for an artist to do is maintain a distinctive sound without treading water. Everything Ecstatic is one more example of Four Tet’s ability to walk this thin line. It lacks the mind-blowing qualities that made Rounds the essential album in his catalogue, but Everything Ecstatic is another must-own from Four Tet, the most reliable of producers.