A Joyful Noise


Whether or not Kieran Hebden—the lanky, curly-haired English lad who records as Four Tet—played guitar in his old, on indefinite hiatus, indie-rock band, Fridge, is irrelevant. Ever since he hopped behind the laptop for his solo debut, 1999’s Dialogue, he’s had a drummer’s mind-set. And a jazzbo’s record collection. With 2003’s Rounds, he broke out with a cyclical album that started with a dog’s heartbeat and ended with squeaks from a joyfully chewed puppy toy. Within were trickling crystalline metallophones, descending harp plucks, Fahey-esque fingerpicking, and (nearly Tori Amos’s) pedally piano, all twirling gently. It was folky idyllictronica, perfect for sunny Saturday shopping ambience and downtempo dining in Soho, even if he stuck Blue Note New Thing-ies in the beats and horn wails of the centerpiece, “Unspoken.” Remixes excised any trace of folk: Both Super Furry Animals and Boom Bip got turned into boppity Five Spot gigs, and Pedro’s “Fear and Resilience” sprawled like a downtown loft jam for 24 minutes.

Roiling floor toms and hissing cymbals introduce Everything Ecstatic, Four Tet’s fourth, as he goes Rashied Ali on our asses for six seconds, flashing practice-tape fills before fixing them in the mix. Furious upright sawing and drilled snares give “A Joy” not just a tumultuous low end but a heightened celerity, which quickly builds till the logjammed signals burn to noise and synapses melt from information overload. Throughout, Hebden clutters up the sampled clatter, then pushes till it breezily swings in the stereo field. Hear how “Smile Around the Face” spins a drum machine dizzy, chirping like Minnie Riperton through a blown Leslie speaker on a careening carousel, pirouetting to the point of exhaustion. Or how saxes exalt with fiery tongues for “Sun Drums and Soil,” levitating the loam through circular breathing. Most ho-hum is “And Then Patterns,” but it at least lopes like some head-nod joints from Diamond D or RZA (who were pretty jazzy anyway).

But it’s not just jazz’s rapture at play. “High Fives” taps tubular bells till they tingle like a feel-good hit from Madchester and “Sleep, Eat Food, Have Visions” gleefully piles monosynths and 303s till they spire and spin out of control, too blotto to hold at the center. Gongs get thrown from the merry-go-round, wind chimes gamelan along, and Hebden finally draws a breath on “You Were There With Me.” Plangent clangors accrue in woozy overtones, wherein he flashes a final beam of light.