Thurs Oct 23
As much as we all may love electronic music--especially the stuff that gets herded into the daftly coined "IDM" category--it's no secret that most laptop-oriented shows contain all the excitement of watching someone Instant Message with a buddy at an internet cafe. And sure, I'm all for subverting traditional song structures and melodies and all that, but when the evening's PC navigator is more glitch-happy than your average Jupiter probe, the combination of visual boredom and excruciatingly assaultive, self-indulgent wankery can quickly send one scurrying to the front-room bar for a drink and some relief.
But when something is so radiant and completely enthralling as Rounds, the latest album from Kieran Hebden's solo venture, Four Tet, it's easy to ignore the scarcity of bells and whistles, exploding pyro, little people on stilts, whatever, and just tap into the sensory delights the music itself has to offer.
Like swallowing the tiniest pill, it's easy to allow Hebden's mood-altering substance to get inside and affect you. The mellifluent heartbeat that introduces the opener, "Hands," signifies the album's intent to spurn computer-generated aloofness for something deeply corporeal and soulful. The song's quickening pulse gives way to flitting ride-cymbal splashes, jazzy drum fills, and gauzy keyboards before a crisp, steady hiphop loop pulls it all together like DJ Shadow bounding through a weekend retreat in the countryside.
"My Angel Rocks Back and Forth" brings together hypnotic iron-lung respiration with a downtempo, Tricky-like vibration and a gentle music box melody. The soothing effect is less lullaby, though, than the sonic equivalent of what it's like to scuba-dive at night in warm ocean waters, your headlamp revealing scores of tropical fish as they sway amid the coral. The nine-minute-plus "Unspoken" is Hebden's pièce de résistance, in which he integrates layers of lugubrious piano, backward-masked psychedelic ambience, and distantly skronking saxophones so seamlessly that you don't realize how dense the track is until everything drops away but the placid, looping beat.
With sounds this stunning, you'll be content to give your eyes a rest for one night and just listen.