- Over the past few years, Kieran Hebden's flirtations with house music turned into a full-blown love affair. Two of his recent albums, Four Tet's Pink and this year's Percussions collection, 2011 Until 2014, were essentially compilations of dance floor 12-inches. Neither was subpar, but the more functional formats didn't always play to Hebden's strengths: his skill at wandering between styles, his knack for rich chords and melodies. Morning/Evening marks a welcome change of approach. The steady pulse of house is still present, but it's a small part of the whole, fleshed out by twinkling synth work and a selection of gorgeous samples from 1983 Bollywood film Souten.
Morning/Evening also marks a departure from 2013's dense, diverse Beautiful Rewind; consisting of just two side-long tracks that unfold with an easy grace, Hebden's latest is the prettiest Four Tet record in some time. The 20-minute "Morning" is the better of the two—its Souten loop framed with warm, drifting synth lines while a 4/4 beat ticks away low in the mix. Hebden rides the loop for longer than seems wise, but as more vocal coos and layers of shimmering synth continue to bleed in, it's easy to get swept up in the soothing undulations.
On "Evening," similar material is made into sparser and, appropriately, darker shapes. Shorn of drums, pointillist synths and what sounds like a clarinet or two hang in the air thoughtfully, building slowly to their brief, glowing climax. The whole process takes over ten minutes, but it doesn't feel laboured. In its best moments, Morning/Evening is perfectly paced.
Less convincing is the "Evening" side's coda. The sparse drum track chugs along for a good five minutes, with the occasional blast of reverb doing little to dispel its boredom. "Morning" has its misstep, too, a brief breakdown circa nine minutes that seems to tug the track in a percussive direction before abruptly giving up. These moments reveal a certain vagueness as to the album's purpose: is it a loose, pre-recorded mix of disparate material, or a pair of carefully considered suites? Even with these faults, though, Hebden has brought a refreshing addition to his discography.