Kieran Hebden has embarked on an extraordinary journey since his first single ‘thirtysixtwentyfive’ was released in 1998. In case you’re wondering, the name of the track is the length of the song – 36 minutes and 25 seconds. This was our first glimpse at how outrageously creative and fearless Kieran’s electronic extraordinaire; alter ego – Four Tet could be. The next, major part of Four Tet’s voyage in the world of electronic music was the release of his first full length, unique album ‘Dialogue' - which fused hip hop drums with dissonant sounding jazz samples. After this, ‘Pause’ was released in 2001. This had a highly contrasting sound to the first album, combining folk and electronica (Folktronica). This album was a first reveal that his life is highly incorporated into the music he makes. A recording of an office setting, which prominently features the sounds of typing on a keyboard; forms a recurring motif throughout the album. It opens ‘Glue Of The World’, closes ‘Hilarious Move Of The 90s’, and also features in ‘Harmony One’. His next project ‘Rounds’ was a further step up in ambition. Out of all his albums, this one seems to be the one with perhaps the biggest connection to Kieran’s personal life. He recorded it on a desktop computer and home hi-fi, in his flat over 10 months. The 10 tracks feature hundreds of wonderful jazz, folk, and hip-hop samples. The unique fusion of electronic and organic styles really caught people’s attention, and Hebden was well on his way to the top.
Then came a massive moment in Four Tet’s career. He had sold out shows at the Hammersmith Apollo, and been involved with huge tours, but decided he was finished with that stage. Hebden possesses an admirable attitude – to keep improving and expanding. In March and April of 2005, he performed two shows of improvisational music, in collaboration with one of his musical heroes – Steve Reid (exceptional percussionist). Finding himself on stage with Steve in front of thousands, not knowing what they were going to play, made him feel pressure, which brought yet another level out of his creative mind. This new lease of musical energy resulted in ‘Everything Ecstatic’ being released, which is heavily percussion influenced thanks to Reid’s inspiration. Playing with Steve opened him up to a whole new world. Since then, 6 more albums have been released, including ‘Morning/Evening’ which goes against common conceptions of the structure of an album, and represents yet another example of his daring attitude. It only possesses two tracks, but each are an expansive 20 minutes long, and very emotional. His most recent work is ‘New Energy' (2017), which can only be described as a soothing and striking river, which flows with twists and turns from start to finish. This album represents an all-time high in his career as a producer. He played host to several sold out shows at Village Underground and around the world in early 2018, due to the success of the album. In the last few months, his success and admiration by many in the world of music has led to him headlining various festivals over the summer, with his scintillating live shows and DJ sets which possess music from across the spectrum. He has reached the top of the dance music ladder.
It has been an incredible journey, and a few weeks ago he hosted two live shows, and two club nights at the O2 Academy in Brixton; with the likes of Anthony Naples, Floating Points, Ben UFO, Pangaea, Joy Orbison and more; joining him for his 4-night takeover. I went to the first live show on the 10th of October, which had a unique dynamic for a night of live music in the world we live in. A routine night out in London may be to go and listen to your favourite music, but to also expect more, such as spectacular visuals and extravagant dancers on stage. Walking into the O2 academy in Brixton was a total contrast. The musical environment had been completely stripped back. Darkness dominated the room, which was only dimly lit by lights from the bars around the edges. The sound of electronic music was booming out through the doors of the venue, but upon arrival, you wouldn’t even know where the rhythmic, progressive sounds were being transmitted from. After wondering in a bit further, you could spot a light glimmering in the distance, and a bit further… Oh theres Anthony Naples! The DJ, producer, and co-operator of the record label ‘Incienso’ was the guest support for the first show. He was playing in front of the stage (in level with the crowd) with only a lamp beside him, so he could see the decks he was mixing on. Naples casually gave a lesson in how to do a great warm up set, whilst the stage crew brought him a Nando’s meal to tuck into. The crowd grew and grew in front Naples, each selection enhanced the buzz slightly. Hebden was responsible for this whole show, and it was clear that he wanted to portray that this event was all about the music. No distractions; just great music from a very talented selector, and Four Tet himself. It was a very effective approach. There wasn’t anything else to appreciate, so it made you think about, and appreciate the music, perhaps more than you normally would. The darkness also allowed for freedom for the crowd to express themselves without feeling like they were being watched. The unorthodox set up created a great atmosphere. Naples has been touring with Four Tet recently, featuring on huge line ups such as ‘Four Tet & Friends All Day Long’ at the WHP. Playing in front of large crowds of genuine music lovers is certainly enhancing his pedigree as a DJ. He gained the respect of a crowd who had come to see the sensational music on offer at a Four Tet show.
Hebden stepped up onto his podium just after 9pm. He was raised so that the hundreds spectating from up top, and the thousands surrounding him below could catch a glimpse of him in action. Moments after he took centre stage, the familiar, ambient beat and chimes of 'Planet’ started flowing. This was the start of a presentation of his mind-blowing electronic music portfolio. He entertained the crowd with thudding, high energy productions, as well as ambient masterpieces. At moments he made the place feel like Fabric on a Friday night, with high energy, thudding records such as ‘Kool FM’ and ‘SW9 9SL’; at other times he had us standing in awe, whilst he filled the room with ambience, using graceful, exuberant sounds, and mesmerising drifts of electronic tones in ‘Two Thousand and Seventeen’ and ‘La Trance’. The highlight moment of the night for me was when he soothed the atmosphere towards the end of the night, playing one of his most fascinating productions – ‘Morning Rise’ from ‘Morning/Evening’ which features powerful, emotional vocals, before transitioning into the equally aesthetically pleasing, melodic ‘Lush’ to close. There aren’t many performing artists in the world that can satisfy your listening pleasures quite like Four Tet can in a 2-hour show. His journey has shaped him into a pioneer of electronic music production today. His musical mind continues to expand, and it seems like he will only get better and better. Four Tet live at the O2 Academy Brixton was a remarkable moment in his incredible, ever-expanding journey through electronic music.