Four Tet // Rounds (re-release): a landmark album from the master of experimentation
13th May 2013 was a day of significance in the world of electronic music: it marked the decade anniversary of the release of Four Tet’s seminal, epoch-making third album, Rounds. To celebrate, Domino launched a rerelease, including the tantalising addition of seven typically innovative, contortedly shining tracks mixed and recorded live by Hebden in Copenhagen.
Four Tet has been at the forefront of a new-wave defiance that has been growing across UK producers steadily over the last 15 years: he fosters a refusal to accept the mundane predictability that so much of today’s EDM is focused around and feeds off. For Hebden, two decks, a mixer, some keyboards and trusty laptop present a platform from which to create and experiment with sounds that shake and stimulate you to the very core. Simply, for this ground-breaking curator of musical patterns, boundaries exist to be pushed and broken; conformity is a concept to be shunned. As an album, Rounds epitomised this forward-thinking, challenging attitude. It was the beginning of a fresh wave of serial experimenters and has been cited as an influence for producers as wide-ranging as Floating Points, Mount Kimbie, Jamie xx and Caribou.
After his work within the 90’s band Fridge, Hebden saw some success with his first two solo projects, Dialogue and Pause; however, it was with Rounds’ release a decade ago that the music world really stood up and took notice: this was an unprecedented ten-track journey that took listeners on a twisted path through synthesised jazz, bass-heavy trip-hop, melodic grime, post-rock purity and melancholic, meandering folk. Four Tet demonstrated that he can be exactly what you wanted him to be: hot and cold, fast and slow, all-dancing and all-thinking. If such a thing exists, Keiran Hebden showed that he was, and still is, the pensive raver – a pirouetting oxymoron contained within a riddled paradox. He recently expressed “direct rebellion” at being labelled ‘folktronica’ – no wonder: when releases are as diverse as his, you can’t put this man’s sounds into a box. There isn’t one big enough.
Some of Four Tet’s greatest productions are contained within Rounds: “She Moves She” incorporates off-beat rhythms with blissfully inappropriate string and harp melodies to form one of the sunniest tracks this side of 2000; “As Serious As Your Life” is quintessential, raw, trip-hop that pulsates with dense energy and pace; “My Angel Rocks Back and Forth” is…well, it’s beyond description and comparison, isn’t it? Musical science just doesn’t cut it.
With Four Tet’s productions moving increasingly into dance arena, the rerelease of Rounds gives old fans a chance to indulge in a touch of his primitive, early sounds, while opening up the ears of those who haven’t yet been acquainted. Fling in the exclusive live recordings from Copenhagen and there’s something for everyone: this is a sure-fire winner from one of the heavy-weights of improvised experimentation.