Four Tet Leading The Way
This year Four Tet (aka Kieran Hebden) set the standard for electronic artists on how to adapt and flourish through unprecedented circumstances. The journey began on Halloween 2019 when two tracks, mysterious in presentation yet familiar in feel, nestled their way into our release radars. In January 2021, his master plan came full circle. The artist’s name and song titles for this cryptic two-track EP were written in Ascii art. The internet quickly deduced that this was Four Tet’s surprise Halloween gift to the world. One of the tunes, now thankfully renamed in English, “Parallel 4”, makes an appearance on Four Tet’s brand new album “Parallel”. This microcosm encapsulates the staggering attention to detail of his approach.
Jumping to spring 2020, Four Tet’s YouTube channel went live, streaming unreleased music 24/7. Initially, the videos portrayed a record player spinning, coming to its conclusion, and being restarted by hand. As summer arrived, both the music and the videos diversified. Kieran had taken a camera out into the wilderness, presumably near his picturesque home as seen in his “Streaming from Isolation” Boiler Room set. He filmed himself frolicking around the woods in slo-mo with his kids. The live-stream was therapeutic, soothing, and provided a welcome release from a pretty unsettling time. In retrospect, it was clear a full-length album was in the works.
Rarely one for predictability, his next release was his first-ever Drum and Bass remix. A recognisably Four Tet re-work of “Negative Returns” by Krust came out in November, showcasing his diversity. Meanwhile, his YouTube channel continued to evolve, with the songs now echoing sounds of his 2003 album “Rounds”. Multicoloured 3D sculptures morphed on screen for a tasty audiovisual treat, and the anticipation of fresh material was palpable.
Next up was another collaboration. This time, he linked up with Burial and Thom Yorke, as “Her Revolution / His Rope” were released on December 11th, just 3 days before announcing on Instagram that he had worked on a full-length record with the legendary Madlib. “Road of the Lonely Ones” (and subsequently “Hopprock”) were dropped as an appetiser of what promises to be one of the albums of the year.
As if we hadn’t been indulged with enough new music already, Four Tet surprised everyone on Christmas Day with one of the highlights of 2020. A culmination of his solo work throughout the year, many of the tracks from both “Parallel”, and “871”, are recognizable from his YouTube streams. “Parallel” begins with an immersive 26-minute ambient opener, and the album goes on to display the mastery and attention to detail that Four Tet encapsulates. “871” is the more challenging of the two releases, yet retains his characteristically charming moments of bliss, chaos, and release.
2020 was a strange, challenging, and frustrating year for many artists. Four Tet has navigated through the clutter with the most diverse, prolific, and astounding year of his career. In light of everything we’ve seen from Kieran recently, the outlook for 2021 and beyond becomes ever more promising for electronic artists everywhere who are willing to adapt.