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Who'd have Four Tet it?
on 6 June 2005
Here we get a peek inside the head of Keiran "Four Tet" Hebden to see what makes him tick. Nothing wrong with that, you might think and being a fan of his 2003 "Rounds" album I was certainly interested to catch an earful of his musical influences. However, listening to this compilation, you have to wonder if the Another Late Night/Tales series is really the best platform to accommodate them.
For starters, ANL/NLT compilations typically have some kind of flow to them. Hebden's juxtapositions seem to have little interest in flow whatsoever, the far-from-logical transition from Tortoise's rattling marimba epic (sorry, "post-rock") "Why We Fight" through Gravediggaz' pounding hip-hop to Joe Henderson's spacious, laidback jazz being a prime example.
Even more baffling are the short track snippets, such as Hal Blaine's "Wiggy", that are thrown in assumedly as a bridge between tracks. Given that these snippets are either non-sequitous bursts of jazz percussion or pretty-but-drastically-anonymous library music, these bridges constructed are so rickety that one would rather take the plunge for the most part. Short segments like these only serve to heighten the feeling of imbalance between track lengths - interesting but short tracks like Koushik's psychedelic "Battle Rhymes For Battle Times" go up against overlong pieces like Icarus' "Benevolant Incubator", not a bad track by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly not requiring 10 minutes to get its point across.
Yet it's impossible for me to write this album off completely. Why? Because in amongst the filler there is some genuinely amazing music dotted around this CD. Manfred Mann's "One Way Glass" is a most funky piece of psych rock with an infinitely catchy riff. Max Roach's percussion ensemble M'Boom provides some frosty bells and chimes on the beautiful "January V". Koushik's remix of Madvillain is a marvellously textured (if short) hip-hop track with Koushik's dusty beats, flutes and enigmatic vocals providing the perfect backdrop for MF Doom's gruff flow, and there's some sublime jazz on hand from Del Jef Gibson + Malagsy.
Of course, there are also some turkeys on hand. Terry Riley's "Music For The Gift (Part 2)", an exercise in manipulation of Chet Baker tapes, is one of those tracks that producers go giddy over whilst everyone else wonders where exactly the tune is. And the 'bonus' tracks on hand - Four Tet's Hendrix cover and David Shrigley's isolated spoken word nugget at the end - do more to detract from the album's whole than add to it. On the whole, however, there's no doubt that Hebden generally has great taste in music. Let's just hope that next time he commits it to CD, he puts it together more coherently.
I give it a very generous 3 for the quality of the tunes on hand.