Live At Alexandra Palace
Four Tet is the brainchild of Kieren Hebden, an English producer and musician from Putney, London. It seems that Four Tet has been around forever, and he kind of has been. Four Tet’s first album, Dialogue, came out twenty years ago. He is a most prodigious artist, having released nine albums under the Four Tet moniker, seven live albums (Alexandra Palace is the most recent), five remix albums, five DJ mix albums, three ep’s, and so on, plus what Hebden’s done under his own name, primarily with Steve Reid. In other words, his discography is massive. And he has an epic Bandcamp presence.
Live at Alexandra Palace comes on the heels of four live albums he put out last year of a series of gigs around the world. In this sense, it is part of a continuum. In a lot of ways, the setlist, such as it is, doesn’t differ much across these shows, taken largely from his 2013 album, Beautiful Rewind, as well as 2017’s New Energy, Four Tet have done away with song titles, instead mashing up his tracks into larger movements, Parts 1 to 5, with Parts 3 and 4 both running upward of 35 minutes each; the album as a whole clocks in at 1h54m. Do you need nearly two hours of Four Tet in your life? I think you do.
To a large degree, Four Tet’s sound doesn’t differ all that much across the past two decades in that the same basics underlie Hebden’s approach: staccato drums, a bassline that dinks and doinks, and then chimes and bells that provide the melody. That would suggest he’s an artist that shows very little growth in his ouevre. But that’s not the case. Each album sounds like it’s from the same artist, but the music sounds different.
And here, live, what strikes me is the lengths to which Hebden goes to remix, re-do, and mash up his own music. There’s a certain kind of electronic music I will always associate with Orbital. This kind of music tends to have shiny keyboard strokes over the beat. No one could do it like the Hartnoll brothers at their peak in the late 90s. In a lot of ways, live, Four Tet take up this mantle, as it adds more depth to his music, but then the shiny flourishes disappear and we’re left with these wonderful chimes and electronic squinks adding layers to the beat.