Four Tet: Beautiful Rewind
Similar Artists: Caribou, Mount Kimbie, Burial
Genre: Electronica, IDM, Jungle
Label: Temporary Residence
It’s hard to remember that there was a time (not too long ago in fact) where Kieran Hebden didn’t make dance music. True, his music has always had a certain bounciness to it, and his playful melodies have always been inspired by EDM, but it wasn’t until recently that he embraced the circling repetition of techno and house to go along with his unique mix of psychedelic sampling. While all of his full length releases have boldly showcased a sense of stylistic progression, 2011’s beautiful, minimalist There Is Love In You felt like a real game changer for the artist, and one that would surely garner him much attention in the club circuit. There’s been no shortage of Four Tet since then — many of his singles were compiled on last year’s excellent Pink — and his collaborations with friends such as Thom Yorke and Burial have also been in near constant supply, so this release stands as yet another mark of his prolific nature.
Beautiful Rewind — which was released by surprise with little commercial support — is a more inward looking Four Tet record than we have become accustomed to. It’s also one less likely to incite dance floor intensity. The record aims to revitalize the sounds that have affected Kieran himself, and inspired him to be an artist, which makes this a personal record of sorts. Don’t worry too much though, as the album is still prone to make you move — just in quick, 3 minute bursts rather than 10 minute stretches. While it is a bit disappointing that the tracks are never lengthy enough for the listener to become fully indulged in a solid groove, the shift lets Four Tet show off his versatility. Additionally, the several short interludes spead through the album give it a distinct, home listening feel relatable to his earliest solo LP’s such as Dialogue and Pause. Still, after the forward thinkingness exemplified through the whole of his career, Beautiful Rewind is the first record in Four Tet’s discography to look to the past for its inspiration. Consequently, it feels like a less essential — albeit still thoroughly enjoyable — inclusion to his work.
It isn’t merely a rehash though, as Four Tet’s sound has advanced in some noticeable ways. One of the defining traits of the album is the influence of UK pirate radio stations from the 80’s and 90’s. Tracks like early single “Kool FM” and “Buchla” see Kieran working with grimier vocal samples and rougher underlying beats than we have heard from him before. Possibly the best track on the album, “Aerial”, sees a lo-fi sample of an MC shouting slurs beneath a wonky synth rhythm. There’s actually some real ugliness to the sounds on this record — which is an adjective I would have never previously thought to have used in accordance with Four Tet. Kieran shows off his genius by making these sounds work with his old ones, once again proving that he can excellently meld disparate genres into one.
The other half of the album, however, is a return to the beautiful synthetic rhythms and female vocal samples that were perfected on There Is Love In You. The back and forth design of the 11 tracks gives the album a bit of a disjointed feel — even when each individual track is tightly knit. While the botched together presentation was likely intentional (to make it feel like we were listening to a radio station), it doesn’t make for a very focused listening experience, as the tracks fall into two categories: the ones that stand out, and the ones that don’t. While there are certainly tracks on Beautiful Rewind that manage to recall the best of Four Tet, there is so clearly nothing that transcends it.
2.) Parallel Jalebi*
3.) Our Navigation
4.) Ba Teaches Yoga*
5.) Kool FM*
9.) Ever Never
11.) Your Body Feels
Album Highlight – *