If you like electronic music that’s more concerned with sound and texture than with booty shaking, Kieran Hebden, a.k.a. Four Tet, is the right man for you. Not that he can’t make fellow high-minded knob-twiddlers get down; at his live performances he even gets former indie rockers and white hip-hop snobs (who seem to have taken over the electronic scene these days) to stop staring at the uneventful stage and start paying attention to their moves, albeit for fleeting moments.
But Mr. Tet is most successful when he is using primarily organic instruments and oddly placed tech skills to evoke emotion, a skill he perfected with 2003’s Rounds. The third single off of that justifiably critically acclaimed album is the understated “My Angel Rocks Back and Forth,” which was released with a couple of remixes, two new throwaway songs, and a DVD containing four worthwhile music videos.
The song is a beautiful nod to ambient IDM and down-tempo’s more adventurous pieces. Using a static-filled rolling drum beat and what seems to be a harpsichord, Hebden gives his spacey composition enough Air to breathe life into it. The remix by Icarus seems claustrophobic and collapses under a poor vocal sample in what should be a more laid-back excursion. Isambard Khroustaliov’s remix of two short Rounds-era songs, the slight “First Thing” and the playful vignette “Chia,” expands and combines the compositions into a worthy sound experiment that is the strongest cut on the audio portion of the collection. Sadly, the two new Four Tet productions, “I’ve Got Viking in Me” and “All the Chimers,” do not attain the heights of the tracks on Rounds.
The DVD, included at no extra charge, features four Four Tet videos. The first, an artsy animated piece for “My Angel Rocks Back and Forth,” won’t be playing on MTV any time soon. The second is for the stand-out first single from Rounds, “She Moves She,” and it’s a pretty cool psychedelic version of the Chemical Brothers’s “Star Guitar” video by Michel Gondry, speeding trains and all. The video for “No More Mosquitoes” stars Hebden as a baby in the weirdest and creepiest videos I’ve seen in a while.
The best video is for “As Serious as Your Life,” which uses Morris Dancers (a traditional English dance) at tourist spots cannily cut together to pounce on beat. It’s got quite the sense of humor, while oddly reminding me of those Al Qaeda training videos the press trots out every once in a while to get us scared (am I the only one who thinks guys in masks on monkey bars are funny?). The video is worth keeping, but the rest of the album isn’t quite enough to tide me over until Four Tet’s next album, Rounds Two: The Reckoning. Or whatever.