Four Tet – Rounds

Four TetTalking and writing about electronic albums is difficult, because you have to change the way you think about songs. Normally a song is verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus and is fairly standard stuff. Sure there’s frills along the way and some bands and artists can take this structure and turn it into something amazing. But at it’s core, a song is fairly universal and I know when I’m writing about songs, I can use fairly formulaic terms. So, how do I write about an instrumental, electronic album? I could simply describe the sounds in an effort for you to “hear it in your mind”, which would be a fruitless exercise. I could try and explain the emotional response that I get from the tracks? Maybe. Frankly I’m still fumbling in the dark when it comes to writing about music, so I’ll do my best and hope I don’t bore you.

Four Tet’s (aka Kieren Hebden) second album “Rounds” kicked off a short lived, magazine-created movement dubbed “folktronica” (urgh). Basically, it was music that was made electronically (i.e. a bloke on a laptop) that used much more lush and organic sounds than your usual electronic artists like Aphex Twin and Autreche. Other artists like Manitoba (later to become Caribou) and Prefuse 73 were at the front of this scene but it was Four Tet that got all the critical acclaim. Rounds is a unique album as it doesn’t rely on any kind of recognisable, pre-programmed beats and there’s hardly any bass. This definately isn’t music for dancing to. The first track will give you an idea of this; “Hearts” starts off literall with a heartbeat before moving into a shuffling drum beat and clanging cymbals. It’s all rather hazy, but it’ll give you an idea of what’s to come. “She Moves She” has a more orthodox beat, but the twanging banjo sound is something different.

The frantic “Spirit Fingers”, almost breaks into a rampant breakbeat, but it’s restrained instead letting the harp effects carry the track. “Unspoken” is a mazzy, piano-led track that just adds layers and layers althrought it’s 9 and a half minutes lenght. My favourite track is “My Angel Rocks Back And Forth”, a quite stark track that features a beautiful clarsach refrain, that blossoms into life at the end. Rounds is an album that’s difficult to categorise; it’s been made the way an electronic album would usually be made (samples, manipulation) but it sounds like no other electronic album I’ve heard (ok, apart from Manitoba’s Up In Flames). This is it’s strength, but it might be a weakness from other people’s viewpoint.

Four Tet – My Angel Rocks Back And Forth”

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