Album Review: Four Tet – New Energy

After 20 years of occupying the no-mans-land between indie rock and dance music, Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet drops one of his most accessible albums yet.

Hebden is becoming well known for his incredible live performances, where he delves deeply into his loops to create enthralling, on-off versions and original ideas. His previous album Beautiful Rewind translated well onto the dance floors, and into DJ sets. Drawing influence from the UK underground, it showcased his love for jungle, garage, techno and more. This release has a title that suggests Four Tet may have ramped up his sound once again, but this New Energy may be more spiritual than physical.

The project is largely relaxing rather than energising, with one of its most comforting pieces arriving straight away. Alap is a magical offering of eastern harps, and other plucked strings; it is executed with sublime delicacy. We move from sitting still in awe, onto a slow nod as Two Thousand and Seventeen comes in, the subtle trip-hop drums are set back in the distance, while  a middle-eastern string solo demands attention. This is another captivating piece, fans of Bonobo will certainly approve. LA Trance moves towards a more electronic sonic landscape, bleeping and clicking away rather unassumingly.

New Energy is Four Tet’s ninth studio album

There are a number of interlude’s, much like on Burial’s albums, and they do their job well. Not only do they bridge the gap between different tempos, but they also offer time for reflection; and are often incredibly moreish. Some of the tracks such as Scientists are sloppy, and indecisive, getting lost in their own layers. Fans of Floating Points will appreciate the experimental nature of Four Tet’s production, with inspiration from classical, jazz, ambient and more his albums are always a journey; much like DJ Shadow’s. You Are Loved appears around the halfway point, and is not the album’s best, as its ugly zaps ping around over a stagnant loop.

Thankfully SW9 9SL saves the day with its house/techno swing, synth swells and tasteful arps. His restless approach leads to a prolific output, but if he concentrated on more of these, his albums could reach a wider audience. The textures, details and nuances hidden within his music are always mind- blowing, but he has really out done himself here; with each 8 minutes deserving a listen. It is followed by yet another mesmerising interlude, continuing the oriental theme 10 Midi is a true highlight that leaves you wanting more.

Hedben is not finished yet though, as track 12 Daughter includes the album’s most breathtaking vocal sampling and layering. After one more interlude the uplifting techno track Planet is lead by high plucked strings, analogue synthesis and female vocals. It is a loose combination that at times, appears to drag, but is is yet another testament to Four Tet’s creativity.

New Energy is densely packed with ideas from across the spectrum, but has managed to retain its identity. With similar musical themes and instrumentation being revisited throughout the release, the opposing tracks are somehow glued together. It may not be quite as friendly as Bonobo’s latest album, but with each challenging moment comes one of pure brilliance. Come and hear it at its best on some of our over-ear headphones in store today.