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Four Tet - There is Love in You

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Artist: Four Tet

Album: There is Love in You

Label: Domino

Review date: Jan. 26, 2010

It’s a good thing Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden can’t help but keep busy. His fidgety musical tastes have carried him from early forays in kraut- and post-rock via Fridge on to breakbeats and Brit-folk with his earliest solo albums, to improv and free-jazz with his Steve Reid collaborations, and now into his latest phase of minimalism and dubstep. Through it all, Hebden has maintained an amorphous-yet-identifiable sound steeped in rhythm and repetition. There is Love in You, his first solo full-length in half a decade, is rooted in beat music, but perambulates all of those former infatuations in an expected but enjoyable way.

That last sentence shouldn’t be conveyed as a backhanded compliment. Hebden has worked hard over the years to cross styles and sounds, and early on There is Love in You, it feels as if his inter-genre fidgeting has coalesced better than ever. The opening three-punch rivals anything Hebden has strung together before, at least on par with the “My Angel Rocks Back and Forth”-“Spirit Fingers”-“Unbroken” sweep that forms the core of Rounds. “Angel Echoes” begins quietly on a sliced-up vocal loop of the record’s title, rising and falling on a steady kick drum and unabashedly emotional melody. The persuasion continues in a literal sense on “Love Cry,” which even at nine minutes feels like the record’s most obvious single (as it was, late last year). Many prefer the Joy Orbison remix, but the original is less obvious and consequently better because it defies simple categorization, slipping between the cracks of minimal techno, stuttering dubstep and loose improv-jazz. Three songs deep, as chiming come-down “Circling” ends abruptly, there’s no reason to believe this isn’t one of the best albums of the year in progress.

Unfortunately, there’s a snag. After weeks of listening, the only thing I can tell preventing There is Love in You from maintaining the consistency and full emotional power it suggests is a single flaw in its sequencing: “Plastic People,” so named for Hebden’s monthly London DJ residency, feels out of place behind both “This Unfolds,” an optimistic eight-minute slow-jam full of twinkling synths and bolstered by an ebullient melody, and the ambient “Reversing.” It also feels out of place ahead of the finale, “She Just Likes to Fight.” It’s this sudden shift in mood away from what these other songs work so hard toward.

Reading this back, it feels petty to call out one song’s placement on an otherwise excellent full-length. Maybe that’s true, but I wouldn’t fault it if I hadn’t found more logical permutations of the track order. There is Love in You suffers nothing from the actual quality of the music; taken separately, these tracks are of the standard one has come to expect from Four Tet. But “Plastic People” feels uncomfortably out of place late on an album that has by then felt your pain, heard your cries and lifted you up.

Call it reaching, but I think that song’s placement (and thus, There is Love in You as a whole) speaks to a higher understanding of what it means to be both Kieran Hebden as Four Tet and a listener of Hebden as Four Tet: The aural expedition goes on, but nothing coalesces completely.

By Patrick Masterson

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