PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Four Tet: Rounds

Adrien Begrand

Four Tet

Rounds

Label: Domino
US Release Date: 2003-05-13
UK Release Date: 2003-05-05
Amazon
iTunes

For a guy in his mid-20s, London's Kieran Hebden has made quite the name for himself in such a short period of time. His post-rock project Fridge has released four albums and numerous EPs and singles since 1997, and many more records have been put out under his solo project called Four Tet. While Fridge puts the emphasis on more guitar-based, live music, Four Tet delves a little further into more experimental territory, with Hebden crafting all his solo albums on computer. The music he has assembled on his own over the last four years has helped create the subgenre some journalists have dubbed "folktronica", an easygoing, electronic sound that blends artificial IDM beats with more organic, pastoral, acoustic samples and melodies. Hebden was really on to something on his 2001 breakthrough album Pause, and that distinctive, cut-and-paste, yet highly accessible sound is really starting to make waves in 2003, thanks in part to Manitoba's masterful Up in Flames (whose composer Dan Snaith was discovered by Hebden), and now, Four Tet's new record, Rounds.

On the new album, Hebden shifts the focus from hip-hop beats, jazz influences, and far-reaching sonic adventurousness, to a more spare, focused sound, one that's cozier, while still breaking new ground. Opening track "Hands" starts off with two minutes of jazzy keyboard and drum inflections, as if Hebden himself is sitting down, getting ready to begin. Two minutes in, a steady, but languid beat comes in, and you start to hear rhythm in the sounds that sounded so disorganized earlier, and as the song continues, your stricken by the fact that this breath of fresh air comes from such a detached source. The following track, the single "She Moves She", boasts a more insistent rhythm track, chiming harmonies, and a melody that sounds influenced by Japanese koto music, as stuttering samples of chords try to push their way into the song, creating an odd, but ultimately comfortable give and take from the two contrasting sounds. "My Angel Rocks Back and Forth" is as sleepy as the title, as a drowsy, hypnotic, trip-hop beat drives an extended harp sample, and as various backwards samples weave their way in and out of the song midway through, it's like drifting off into REM sleep. It's really not as boring as it sounds. Trust me.

The hacked-to-bits string and xylophone samples that make up "Spirit Fingers" sound like a music box gone horribly, horribly wrong, like a scary dream you'd have right after falling asleep to "My Angel Rocks Me Back and Forth", while the terrific "As Serious as Your Life" is decidedly warmer, with its looped bass line, layers of drums, and its tasteful helpings of IDM blips and bleeps. "Slow Jam" is superb, another warm, wide-eyed, watching-the-sun-rise song that, along with "Hands", serves as a perfect bookend to the album. The chiming guitars on the track are gorgeous, and the inclusion of the sound of a child's squeaky toy only makes your smile wider.

The centerpiece on Rounds is the nine and a half minute "Unspoken", Hebden's own little epic, a scintillating pastiche of folk, jazz, and more of those loping beats. The rhythms are steady and unwavering, as a lone piano plays the same chords over and over, with myriad tinkles, hums, and psychedelic backwards tracks popping in. The piano makes way for an equally understated guitar sample, as more keyboards join in, making for an absolutely intoxicating soundscape. You hear distorted noises, hints of jazz saxophone, and ultimately, in true jazz fashion, a reprise of the initial piano vamp, bringing things full circle. This is virtuosic laptop music, Hebden's best recording to date.

Although Rounds isn't quite the jaw-dropping masterpiece that Manitoba's Up in Flames is, and despite the fact that the album lags on the meandering "And They All Look Broken Hearted", it's still a remarkable record, one that, like the work of Dan Snaith, gives a usually stale musical genre a undeniably human feel. While Snaith wildly tries anything and everything on his incredibly ambitious album, Kieran Hebden, on Rounds comes off as the more sensible older sibling, staying the course, not wavering from the path so much, and when he does decide to let it all out, it sounds so focused, so assured, like a jazz master shifting gears with ease. Sublime, computer-crafted recordings like Rounds provides in spades are making the most exciting sounds right now in 2003.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.