On Beautiful Rewind, Four Tet’s latest LP, electronic artist Kieran Hebden lifts sounds from the United Kingdom’s bygone underground dance-music scene and appropriates them to fit his signature sound.
The track “Kool FM” shares its name with an infamous pirate radio station that was among the first frequencies in London to play hardcore and jungle. Jungle-inspired percussive and vocal samples compliment grumbling sub bass, as they do on other more danceable tracks.
The track “Gong” takes a darker turn, drawing influence both from his previous work and the sound of U.K. hardcore music. Aggressive tribal drums are cloaked by reverberated vocals and haunting pads. “Gong” has a satisfying immediacy that many other tracks lack.
However, Hebden’s music never feels urgent. Tense, maybe — but he’s never in a rush to make a statement. “Kool FM” uses two of its five minutes to build atmosphere before it breaks, and “Your Body Feels” is as minimal and emotive as any effective ambient track ought to be.
Hebden doesn’t abandon the sound he has spent years perfecting under his Four Tet monicker. “Buchla” begins sounding like standard ’90s rave music, but quickly morphs into typical Four Tet four-beat fare. Pitchy strings and plonky keys hover above interesting percussive arrangements on tracks like “Unicorn” and “Aerial.” “Unicorn” reaches its climax in euphoric form and yearning vocal samples in “Parallel Jalebi” force you to ache along with them.
These emotive attributes are what make and have made Hebden’s work so appealing. His venture into the past compliments the sound he has crafted for himself over the past decade and it will be interesting to see whether this borrowing from the past signifies a creative lull or a necessary reassessment.