Here I was, as I would be, on any normal day, twiddling my thumbs, scouring the net, searching for new music or new inspiration to send me rushing to the studio to pour my heart out into a new tune, when, out pops the Dropbox indicator, telling me that I have something new waiting for me. Now, as often as that happens, and just as often as the new, is often bland and mediocre, this 'something new' was a welcome surprise.
There wasn't a lot of media hype, massive marketing or even a peep of press surrounding this release. In fact, even if you were a huge fan, as I am, you would be forgiven for not even realising that the new album had dropped in your lap. Such was the case with the new album from Kieran Hebden, better known to his fan base as Four Tet. The digital only release, entitled Pink (although I have just found out that a vinyl and Japan-only CD release is scheduled at some point) is the fifth album from Kieran, as Four Tet. His previous Four (pun intended) albums as Kieran Hebden, were released between February of 2006 and November of 2008, all on Domino Records and a collaboration between long time partner-in-musical-criminology, Steve Reid. But the Four Tet story started as early as 1997 when he formed the band Fridge with classmates Adem Ilhan and Sam Jeffers. The band signed a recording contract when Hebden was 15, and released their first album, Ceefax, on Trevor Jackson's Output Recordings label in March of that year.
Back now, to Pink, released on Kieran Hebden's own label, Text, which I stress again, has relied almost solely on word-of-mouth representation, and of course, Hebden's reputation alone, which, to those who know his work, is, thankfully, strong. Pink is, also in some ways, less of an album and more so a compendium anyway. One that brings together six of his 12-inch releases from the last two years or so with the addition of two new tracks. This album is in many ways, a culmination of his journey so far, both as a musician and DJ.
The opener 'Locked', brings out those trademark interlocking minimal beats that break fast and tough for about a minute and a half until the hint of those lush Four Tet melodies rise gently from that river of drums and float effortlessly to the surface allowing the rest of the track to take focus. Just like a ripple in the water that resonates in concentric circles that go as far as the eye can see, what rises from its epicenter resonates and circulates even further within the mind. Somehow, almost interminably.
The unreleased 'Lion' that follows it playfully flits between its dark, almost tribal-esque drums, yip-chants and synths ending up in a Kalimba laden onslaught that almost personifies the experience of riding a wild menacing Rhinoceros at breakneck pace through the African outback. 'Jupiters', in many cases here, makes more sense to me in this album context than it did when it was first released, providing a melodic interlude to the album before launching again into those trademark Fout Tet drums that we've all come to know and enjoy.
'Ocoras' (released previously as a B side to 'Jupiters') which follows this, is a skippy, Organ fueled detroit-esque minimal dancefloor onslaught punctuated with Pantha du Prince's struck-bell-tones that eventually chop and string themselves into its propulsive melodic finale.
Another noteworthy and amazing B Side, 'Pyramid', originally the flip of 'Locked', sees Hebden deploying a chopped up and messed up vocal (which sounds pretty much like 'I remember how you walked away') in almost the same way as he did 'Love Cry' over a bass heavy riding four-on-the-floor groove, weaving in those hypnotic metallophone melodies half way through that breaks down with wild abandon and then re-emerges seamlessly into that messed up vocal line and takes you back to that slick bass workout.
The album then breaks into 'Peace For Earth', which runs at 11 minutes and 23 seconds, but is an engaging ambient interlude; think Eno or Tangerine Dream, that like its predecessors, needs to be, akin to a great novel, read from cover to cover.
'Pinnacles', the album's finale, built from a sample of 'Noble Ego' by Buster Williams, is by far to me, the best track of the album. Totally detached from anything remotely dancefloor related, or probably, at best, for the most discerning dancefloor, is a massive jazz onslaught of biblical porportions and a worthy album closer. It amalgamates Hebden's vast influences from jazz to folk to Detroit techno and launches, sublimely and even sensually at first. But eventually tears through galaxies and black holes as it heads towards the outer limits.
There is a sense that Pink, in all aspects is Kieran Hebden's serious way of saying here I am, and this is me, now, here. As Peter Parker once asked, "who am I?" in the epic tale of a teenager bitten by a radioactive spider, this is not just Hebden's question to himself, but his answer to you in so many other ways. And this journey, although not necessarily best experienced in Pink, needs to be experienced, nonetheless.
05. 128 Harps
07. Peace for Earth
Footnote: Check also, these following releases, mixed by Four Tet
Late Night Tales: Four Tet (Azuli Records, 4 October 2004)
DJ-Kicks: Four Tet (Studio !K7, 26 June 2006)
FabricLive.59 (Fabric Records, September 2011)