By Greg Salter
Pink, a compilation of the singles that Four Tet has released over the last year with a couple of new tracks thrown in, arrived with little fanfare – just a post by Kieran Hebden to his fans and followers on his blog, and within the weeks a digital release followed. This fairly low-key process underlines that fact that Pink is largely made up of material that Four Tet fans will have already heard, but that doesn’t make this a stopgap between LPs. Pink testifies to Hebden’s continued exploration of dance music since There Is Love In You on that genre’s preferred format – the 12 inch single – and provides several tracks that will go down as career highlights for him.
As a result of these tracks’ origins as singles released over 12 months, they tend to sprawl across different genres, taking in a range of moods that means things don’t flow quite so deliberately and naturally as on a full LP. I found this variety here to be refreshing though – dance or electronic albums can occasionally get bogged down in mood or flow to the detriment of being consistently interesting, but the twists and turns of the eight individual statements here keep you on your toes.
At times, Hebden seems to have taken the opportunity on a few of these tracks to go back in order to go forward – many listeners will have noticed between the spindly melodies on opener ‘Locked’ and the material on his much-loved Rounds from 2003. However, this sits on top of an itchy, syncopated house beat that seems indebted to much more recent developments in the UK. Meanwhile, ‘Lion’, one of the new tracks, has an ominous synth melody and hypnotic samples that recall Aphex Twin’s early muted acid experiments.
Despite these shifts in tone and a wandering eye for genres, these tracks all end up sound like something only Four Tet could have produced – never clumsy, always carefully composed with disparate elements fused together in a way that seems deceptively easy. Take the gorgeous house throb of ‘Ocaras’, built out of a brittle beat but also a rich, almost organic glimpses of warm ambience; it’s like two pieces of a music, one which should move aggressively forward and another which should just drift, are brought together to just hang there as one, breathlessly.
There are also clear highlight when Hebden drops the eclecticism and just goes for it – ‘Pyramid’ ended up on a few best-of-2011 lists last year and for good reason, as it’s his best single since ‘Love Cry’ but twists a similarly mournful vocal sample into something much more club-ready, immediate and even celebratory. Then there’s the patience and quiet beauty of the ambient ‘Peace For Earth’, placed after the highpoint of ‘Pyramids’. If these switches can seem a little jarring, they do at least show a musician at the top of his game on Pink, finding new ways to fuse his textural, rich approach to instrumentation with the dancefloor.