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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Four Tet
Ringer
Domino

Rating: 8/10 ?


May 5, 2008
When the inevitable question comes as to why I follow Four Tet so closely, I simply point in the direction of Kieran Hebden's remix of Beth Orton's "Carmella." To fully appreciate what a consummate genius Hebden is, you have to listen to both the Four Tet remix and the version that appears on Daybreaker, Orton's album of vanilla mush. As the mastermind behind Four Tet, Hebden re-imagines the song with such vitality that you think two things upon hearing it: a) I've been missing out on Beth Orton! And b) this can't be that radical of a departure; he must have had a lot to work with.

But surveying both versions, you'll notice Hebden turning Orton's Anna Nalick schlock into a psychedelic rave-up that pushes the force of the melody out to the forefront and all but re-records all of the music. He adds a walloping beat, complete with handclaps and tambourines, and throws in guitars and music-box chimes and accents it all with keyboards and harmonics, leading to a number of climactic break-downs that make Orton sound more like a soul singer than a pretentious version of someone like Natasha Bedingfield (which she sometimes sort of is, let's face it).

This is what happens when you allow someone so bursting with musical ideas to rework the dregs of pop-music: very base and bland singer-songwriter fare are turned into a colorful and moving piece of pop-art. And while Hebden's records may ultimately be more abstract in their execution, they are no less interesting for it.

Ringer is Hebden's latest "EP" as Four Tet (although it should be pointed out that at almost forty minutes, Ringer's four songs run longer than most full lengths by the likes of Spoon or Weezer or the Shins), and it represents another direction and area of interest for the London producer. Where on recent releases like Rounds or Everything Ecstatic Hebden explored everything from almost monastic, Buddhist-sounding melodies to hip-hop to joyous house music, Ringer seems to take pause (get it? Pause? Oh… I digress) to pay homage to the basics of techno.

The lead/title track has a New Order-like swagger and intensity, starting with a simple main line and building layer upon layer into the kind of pulsating dance track one could picture setting the tone for a particularly sinister DJ set. The resulting mix sounds little like the Four Tet of old (who always sounded like a child at play, no matter the material) and comes across as art of a somehow darker shade. The beats drop in and out, finally exploding into a crashing live drum sound (hard to say with Hebden if they actually are live drums or not) that, for a moment, brings all the layers together before allowing the track to fade as elements drop from the mix until the exit is left with only a single cymbal keeping time.

The remainder of Ringer follows this lead, with three more dark and varied tracks coming across. "Ribbons" finds its virtue in its subtlety, dream-like harpish sounds eventually coalescing into a cohesive track, while the sure-to-be-divisive "Swimmer" starts with a single organ putting out a ray of ambience, joined by a simple bass-drum and vibraphone. Another organ sneaks into the mix, and soon the pitches bend, creating an almost disorienting version of something, say, Stars of the Lid might do (actually scratch that: ambience aside, there is far more going on here than the minimalist Stars of the Lid would be comfortable with: flanged drum beats, piano melodies, and harmonic counter-melodies fill out this song into something more electronic than ambient).

In pop music, Timbaland seems to reign as the king of producers. His simple beats, recycled samples (seriously: how is "The Way I Are" not just a sped-up "My Love"?) have pushed him to an apex of commercial success and granted him access to top artists who are both massive in appeal (Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado) and well-respected tastemakers (Björk, or see the awful closing track to M.I.A.'s Kala, perhaps the only true misstep on the album). Timbaland may be the marquee name for the majors, but for something true and pure and overflowing with ideas, Hebden is truly the producer of choice. While Ringer may not be his most towering achievement, his expert navigation of yet another new world of sound maintains the (hopefully) growing belief that for better or worse, a Four Tet release is always an interesting and rewarding listen (at the very least).

Reviewed by Cory Tendering
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Cory Tendering

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