- By now it's difficult to trace the Kieran Hebden of "Pyramid" or "Peace For Earth" back to the mellow, hip-hop-influenced electronica of records like Pause or Rounds. In the last five or six years, Hebden has become devoted entirely to dance music, establishing himself as one of the UK's most in-demand and adventurous DJs. Whether through recorded mixes like 2011's FabricLive.59 or his sets at clubs like Plastic People (where he's a resident), his dance floor presence has come to equal (if not overshadow) that of the music with which he initially made his name.
Now, for his first album proper since 2010's vibrant, house-bent There Is Love In You (last year's Pink was mostly a compilation of previously released singles), Four Tet is more indebted than ever to UK dance music. Beautiful Rewind is an extended tribute to pirate radio, connecting the dots between jungle, garage and minimalist house music. In a way it recalls the KLF's Chill Out, subbing out that duo's imaginary trip across the American Gulf Coast for a darker, more hectic trip through underground dance culture.
Opener "Gong" buries the titular sound in frantic skips and bumps that owe as much to jungle as to the impure dubstep refrains of the last five years, its clipped samples reduced to quiet moans. "Our Navigation" is more bleak, a chunky, garage-based storm with a melancholic synthesizer and more of those mournful samples coloring the edges in grey and blue hues. Lead single "Kool FM" charges through its warped blurts of noise into a fast-pitched "hey hey hey" sample that sounds like an MC trying to get a few words in. "Buchla" uses similar tricks at first, before presenting a gorgeous, hyper-looped vocal that quickly gets buried in mechanistic twitches of noise and deep, earth-shaking bass.
Beautiful Rewind still manages a few of Four Tet's more wistful retreats. "Aerial" in particular is a notably persuasive piece of urban melancholia; the MC samples are there, but pushed to the edge. Both "Unicorn" and closer "Your Body Feels" look back to the pastoral shades of Steve Reich and Terry Riley; the former approaches a kind of soothing mesmerism as its melodies weave in and out of time, while the latter cushions another blurry sample—which I swear is saying "your wounded body feels"—with saxophone blurts and spatters of synth. They close the album in a reclined stretch that feels all the more welcome after the dance floor ode that defines most of its runtime.
02. Parallel Jalebi
03. Our Navigation
04. Ba Teaches Yoga
05. Kool FM
09. Ever Never
11. Your Body Feels