Four Tet – Rounds

Four Tet

It’s a shame. Kieran Hebden/Four Tet’s claim to fame in many years might just be background music for commercials. Hell, he already has one under his belt, shilling sneakers for Nike. (The commercial ran a year or so ago, where everyone is running to get out of the rain). This new album once again provides a few cuts that could be conducive to most any activity, including watching commercials. And it’s just a matter of time till some higher up at an ad agency finally realizes this, and before you know it Mr. Hebden has made himself a gold mine.
It’s a shame, mostly because – unlike neo-hippie waifs like Moby – Mr. Hebden shouldn’t be posed with moral quandaries on whether to license his music for commercials in an attempt to sell records and afford some decent food. The quality of his music alone should allow him to garner large amounts of praise in both the underground and mainstream press and thus lead to brisk album sales. But the world where artists are praised for music alone and rewarded for their individual achievement is unfortunately not the world in which we currently live. So for his efforts and brilliance, Four Tet goes largely unnoticed except for a loyal following of elctronica/IDM loving kids.
Rounds is a more meaty follow up to 2001’s brilliant Pause, an effort that got the ball rolling and landed a spot opening for Radiohead on a tour. On Rounds, the formula of organic/electronic beats, acoustic plucking, and computer blip blips continues. Additionally, tracks like the funky and butt shaking “As Serious As Your Life” prove that Four Tet’s got its groove back.
The thing that distances Four Tet from like-minded groups such as Manitoba, Boards of Canada, and Mum is the human emotion and feeling that the music conveys. A gripe of many outsiders is that music made by/with computers is cold and impersonal by nature. However, with Four Tet, only one listen to the album closer, “Slow Jam,” you’ll be stumped to argue against this loop-based electronic song being as evocative and sincere as any human voice and guitar combo could be.
The album flows effortlessly from first to last track as fluidly as water. Rounds is a perfect mix of subdued chill-out music and up-tempo beats. a combination that makes the perfect and sublime music for any activity from chilling out on Sunday morning to (ahem) doing it. When the world finally catches on, let’s hope it’s because of Four Tet’s unique and inspiring music, not because it was the background music to a Volkswagen commercial.