Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Review: Four Tet *There Is Love in You*
[Originally written for Pretty Much Amazing.]
The closest approximation of pop construction on Four Tet’s There Is Love in You first appears 4 ½ minutes into “Love Cry” and ends about a minute and a half before the song does. Wave goodbye to the nice Approximation of Pop Construction, kids! Good riddance, I say to my own astonishment.
Though nothing on There Is Love in You will be lighting up the pop charts anytime soon, the album is never formless. In fact, form is everything here: the constant repetition of sonic motifs, the contrast of shifting timbres and sounds, the perpetual thumping of a beat. That said, the album is pretty much hookless, at least in traditional sense. Yet Kieran Hebden, the sole member of Four Tet, does something clever; he compensates with musical elements that do a hook’s job: the bouncing 8-bit beeps in “Sing,” the crystalline harp plucks in “Circling,” and the lyrical guitar line in “She Just Likes to Fight” all act like hooks, when they’re too just repeating motifs.
There Is Love in You is, for the most part, instrumental. In the few instances where a human voice is heard, it’s still usually just another element in the mix, like a hand clap or snare tap. Hebden keeps things to the essentials, adding nothing extraneous to these minimalistic tracks. The album has the elegance of a well-constructed sentence: it conveys its ideas clearly, unencumbered with unnecessary embellishment. Few musical voices speak at once, and when a new one enters, it usually means another has just exited. Yet each track reveals new depth with every listen. It took eight spins before I realized that I heard what I think is a sample of the opening line to the Chiffons classic “Nobody Knows What’s Goin’ On (In My Mind But Me)” playing on the horizon four minutes into “Plastic People.” This ambiguity (is that really what I’m hearing?) is even better than the sample itself.
But enough with all this technical analysis, what makes There Is Love in You a remarkable album is its hypnotic beauty. How does music this digital evoke such real emotion without having to delegate the heavy-lifting to a soulful gospel sample? I’ll leave that question to a neuroscientist. Or perhaps the best answer is another question: who cares? However the means, all that matters is There Is Love in You packs enough emotional wallop to make an emo band blush.
Still, this is not music for the casual fan of the electronic genre. As much as I find There Is Love in You compelling, even brilliant, many will find it boring and repetitive. It’s a demanding album – not to be taken with your Ritalin – which never veers into the day-spa-soundtrack territory of so much instrumental electronic music out there. That’s not to say that Four Tet has assigned the listener homework, either. Meet There Is Love in You halfway, and you’ll find that underneath all those blips and beeps thumps a very human heart.