Four Tet

Everything Ecstatic

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Kieran Hebden had every right to retreat from the folktronica tag stapled to his Four Tet recordings. Although he was the premier name in the sub-subgenre, and although his productions transcended even the cutest label that could be attached to them, the folktronica term was too clever by half; more importantly, no respectable artist in the indie underground can stand idly by while he's being pigeonholed. Nevertheless, the left turn Hebden has taken into jumpy Krautrock with 2005's Everything Ecstatic will make listeners yearn for the clever, nuanced productions he turned in on Pause and Rounds; fortunately, he hasn't completely forsaken his old ways. Early in the program, Hebden sounds more clearly derivative than he ever has; the spotlight track "Smile Around the Face" has one of Kanye West's chipmunk divas blandly merging into a sunny-day Avalanches production. "Sun Drums and Soil" begins with the menacing bell tones of an Autechre track and ends with the blatting horns of a free jazz workout, but the barrage of a percussion section never relents over six minutes. "Clouding," a criminally short interlude, is a turning point for Everything Ecstatic -- all of the album's best moments occur on the second half (and they are very good). "Turtle Turtle Up" and the shifting epic "Sleep, Eat Food, Have Visions" are nominally electro productions, but they're some of the oddest and most attentively produced electro tracks to ever appear on record. (On the latter, the slight influences of the Orb are assimilated into the whole, not pasted on top.) The final track, "You Were There With Me," transforms the sound of Balinese gongs into an isolated, nightmarish production with only a faint heartbeat for a rhythm track. Hopefully, using Everything Ecstatic as necessary distance, Hebden can either return to the sound of his early records or transform his new direction into styles worthy of his production talents.

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