splendid > reviews > 4/9/2003
Four Tet
Four Tet

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "My Angel Rocks Back and Forth"

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The preposterously talented Kieren Hebden's third solo release as Four Tet moves on from the gently bursting bloom of Pause; it is charged with the electric crackle of autumn. Pause was filled with hazy, shifting shimmers and a pastoral contentment fleshed out full and ripe as a peach eaten on a sunny porch. Rounds contains a new underlying sonic scrape that is brisk and windy and distinctly more dynamic than Hebden's previous, more placid outings, but the signature dense soul of his work is the same. The songs are arrestingly beautiful in their mood and in their richness. Itís immediately evident, but each subsequent listen rewards the listener with revelations of the little discrete bits that tumble and swarm all over each other within each track. Four Tetís arrangements are sublime discoveries in themselves ≠- each begins in its own distinct way and bursts open into something else entirely. Hebden says that titling the album Rounds is a nod to the style of singing in rounds, but the title is especially apt, as his highly cyclical songs evoke a changing of the seasons from summer to fall, as well as the maturation of an artist.

Itís an incredibly romantic album, hypersensitive of breathing and decay and growth and glow, as one might be on a long November stroll with a beloved -- not speaking, fingers barely touching. In fact, the entire album is incredibly tactile, from tracks that seem like aural incarnations of touch, like "And They All Look Broken-Hearted"'s messy tangle of guitar threads, and "Slow Jam", which is all fingers running lazy over skin, to the titles themselves: "Spirit Fingers" and "Hands". "Hands" opens the album with a texture like a constantly shifting sidewalk on a blustery day. The plucked, scuttling staccato of guitar strings is the portrait of a single panel of cement as leaves and scraps settle into brief perfect patterns, before being kicked into new ones by gusts of wind. "My Angel Rocks Back and Forth", surely a contender for sweetest song title, contains a recurring piano motif that is lovely in its twirling float, gracefully drifting from the air to the ground. The slow, staticky beats beneath are exhalations of first frost on a clearly delicate day.

Four Tet picks up the pace with "Spirit Fingers", a delirious, dervish-driven track, all mad gold glints spinning on their toes, and a fretful guitar that is plucked so quickly and lightly that the notes just whiz by, fragile and fluttery on top of beds of rich, ripe chimes. "Unspoken" softly reaps full fields of wind chimes until Four Tet brings in a melody line that is so warm and full and just a little hesitant that there is nothing more like it than the blush of a tender crush. There may be nothing really new under the sun -≠ history is perhaps doomed to repeat itself and cycles, well, cycle on ≠- but as Rounds captures so perfectly, each iteration of the moment when fingers touch feels unexpectedly, gorgeously new.



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