Album Review: Four Tet – Pink

To get your electronic appetite built up for Decibel Festival later this week, KEXP is adding to rotation some new tunes by UK bass music pioneer Kieran Hebden, a.k.a. Four Tet. His latest collected release, called Pink, is not an LP, as much as it is a mishmash of his singles on his own label Text, all strung together in a somewhat continuous thought. Pink’s oldest material comes from the “Pyramid”/”Locked” single that Four Tet dropped right after releasing his fantastic Fabriclive mix. These two tracks made their debut in this excellent DJ set, mixing together the newest of the new, and classic 90s rave and 2 step tracks like “Cape Fear” that influenced Hebden back in his school days. The newest of the singles found here is the beautiful “128 Harps”, which Hebden debuted this last July. Also presented are some previously unreleased tunes, including the excellent “Lion”. All in all, while not nearly as continuous or theme driven as true LPs in his collection like There Is Love In You, Pink shows us that Four Tet hasn’t lost any ground in the past few years on the scene and will continue to spearhead UK bass for as long as he chooses to.

What is lost in continuity on Pink is made up for in content. The eight tracks found here are not to be ignored. These tunes are definitely clubbier than the average Four Tet track, with the exception of “Peace For Earth”, whose energy could barely lift a finger. “Pyramid” is perhaps Four Tet’s most straightforward house track yet, but the build and his clever use of vocal sampling make this cut a dark, sensual romp of a club jam. Similar feelings show with “Ocoras”, the original b-side to the “Jupiters” single (both are found on Pink). The slow build of this track may require patience, but the payoff is quite rewarding for a Four Tet dance track. With most American EDM as gaudy as it is, it may be difficult to see the emotional impact of some of these tracks, and the potential they might have to totally releasing a dance floor. But like most true dance tracks, the power of these is best felt not individually, but in the middle of a DJ set. Without context, a track like “Pyramid” might seem like a one-trick pony. But on Fabriclive.59, when Four Tet mixes Richard Villalobos into “Pyramid” and transitions out with unsung UK beat hero Red Rack’em, the track becomes an instant highlight of the 80 minute mix. Four Tet has DJed plenty of sets in his day, and the tracks he presents here on Pink aren’t placeholders – they are intended to be emotional highlights, that change the dynamic and boost energy as part of a continuum.

Two tracks off Pink definitely stand out on their own, though. Singles “Jupiters” and “128 Harps” are without a doubt, some of Four Tet’s all time best work. “Jupiters” creates a strong dichotomy between two unique energies throughout. First, a complex synth and bell lead establishes the melodic direction for the song, with a solid minute long intro with no drums at all. Then, the music fades to silence, and without warning, Hebden drops a beastly bass beat, with all heat and mystique you expect from the club, and all of the complexity and counterpoint you know to expect from Four Tet. As the track goes on, the melody comes back in and goes away again, creating a mixture of emotion and dance that is rarely seen elsewhere. Similarly, “128 Harps” mixes a strong beat presence with a soft and thoughtful melody line (on harp, obviously) that almost seems out of place on a track as danceable as this one. But then again, we’ve known Four Tet for quite some time now to be a man not afraid to use laptop creations to express human loves and human emotion. After all, this juxtaposition is what makes his music so delightful.

Pink is a digital only release! You can grab it on iTunes or you can grab it over at Bleep and get it in high quality WAVS, FLAC, or MP3.

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