Dark Morning Show: Four Tet’s ‘Morning / Evening’ Mini-Album

Four Tet returns with a two song mini-album for your alternately melancholy and euphoric summer.
By    July 1, 2015


Will Schube doesn’t work in plastics.

Kieran Hebden’s beats from space have sullenly banged since his breakout, 2003’s Rounds (call it folktronica and catch the hands). The idea is to take a genre that you think is out of room and annex new territory off the vanishing point. It makes him impossible to pigeonhole, filled with ideas, and always attempting a re-definition while you’re still interpreting the old ones.

The music weds primal tendencies with cerebral anxieties. It hits you in the legs and lungs. Both calculator and cannon.  His latest album is two twenty minute sides titled “Morning” and “Evening.” It sounds quintessentially Four Tet in that it’s foreign and familiar, wholly new and distinct.

Rounds was his breakout record, a scaffolding-exploding introduction, mixing dance music with guitars arguably better than anyone since Primal Scream. It was free, loaded with samples, and remains as fresh and assured today as upon release.

Instead of establishing Rounds’ success as a foundation, Hebden used it as a point of departure. His subsequent releases have sounded like Four Tet, but also like nothing else. This is the paradox at the core of Hebden’s music. He sounds distinctly like himself, but is never satisfied in a particular phase. Hebden often cites Miles Davis as a stylistic inspiration. The Davis touch point becomes clear when examining the progression of what came next. Everything Ecstatic contradicted  the warm core and subtle maneuverings of its predecessor. Ecstatic lacked the cohesion of Rounds, opting instead for excursions in a smattering of miniature worlds. There is Love in You (2010) is explodes with energy and forays into early-­era London jungle. Four Tet’s work with Burial is also strongly reflected on There is Love in You. Like much of Burial’s work, it unfolds slowly and patiently.

Last Sunday, followers of Four Tet’s Twitter account may have noticed the low-­profile release of his latest album, Morning/Evening. While he announced the record in May, the release was still a surprise (even considering the surfeit of artists springing releases upon their audiences these days). Sighting the summer solstice as cause for celebration, Morning/Evening went from future prospect to a sweaty all-­hours playlist in a matter of days.

Feeling more like a mix than a full­-length, the album is divided into two twenty minute sides. :Morning” flips a spooky Bollywood sample and baths it with chaotic dusted rave synths, euphoric strings, and escalating tense  melodies. “Morning’s” groove yo-yo’s up and down, weaving in and out, yet stays sutured to a consistent unsettling emotion.

On “Evening,” Four Tet aspires towards the ambient. It’s the equivalent of the sweet heat of the solstice winding down into a soothing night. Side A shines and embraces Hebden’s sense of melody. Side B dissolves into the expanse. “Morning” celebrates life. “Evening” worships the unknown.

The format and subtlety will likely leave some Four Tet fans disappointed. It’s less of an album than as two large ideas. It lacks the heart of Rounds and the energy of There is Love in You, but it succeeds in being summertime music fit for late night headphone voyages and early morning sunrise hikes. It’s something distinctly Four Tet, distinctly new. Whatever that means today.

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