It’s become damn near instinctive to assume that any mention of Kieran Hebden or, as he’s more commonly known, Four Tet will be tied to the word “remix”. It’s been four years since he’s released an album of strictly original material (2005’s Everything’s Ecstatic), and he’s mostly filled that time gap by reinterpreting other people’s music, including an EP consisting entirely of Madvillain remixes. Four Tet’s made time for other, more idiosyncratic efforts to satisfy his restless muse, such as a series of albums with noted jazz drummer, Steve Reid, but it sure feels like it has been a while since we’ve been graced with an album of material solely informed by Hebden’s sensibilities.
Thankfully, the wait comes to a close with There Is Love In You, Four Tet’s fifth full-length album, an effort that shows no signs of strain or pressure from the expectations of an extended time away. There Is Love In You doesn’t feel forced or burdened by the need to impress; it’s sublime and careful. Granted, those are both hallmark adjectives for Tet’s previous work, but one would think such a prolonged hiatus might make the guy a little antsy. If anything, Hebden seems less hurried than ever.
As the title sort of suggests, Four Tet appears to be pushing a romantic agenda, albeit a cryptic and knotty one. “Angel Echoes” opens the album with a muted heartbeat of percussion, which soon gives way to a lovely tangle of looped vocal samples, all of which are eventually complimented by low-key yet glistening synths. Say what you will about Four Tet, but the guy knows how to set a mood.
By the time “Love Cry” kicks in, it seems increasingly likely that Four Tet is attempting to create some sort of aural aphrodisiac. If “Angel Echoes” is a sweetly awkward courtship, then “Love Cry” is a soundtrack a burgeoning relationship’s more carnal direction. It’s driven and purposeful, graceful and unremittingly flirtatious. It’s also the most up-tempo moment on the album, perfectly bracing the listener for the comedown that is the spiraling, hypnotic “Circles.”
At this point, There Is Love In You becomes a little more unpredictable. “Sing” maintains the same pulsating vibe of “Angel Echoes”, only now Four Tet has moved into a glitchier realm. It’s a successful electronica workout, if a little out of place, but Hebden’s made a career out of moving in unexpected directions, and the momentary diversion is hardly enough to change the album’s established course.
“This Unfolds” finds Four Tet returning to the dreamier soundscapes of “Circles” with fantastic results, landing somewhere in between the downtempo hyper-ornamentation of Air’s Talkie Walkie and the blissful psychedelia of Manitoba’s (er, Caribou’s) Up In Flames. Four Tet is even gregarious enough to end There Is Love In You on an encouraging note, despite misleadingly titling the final song, “She Just Likes To Fight”. It’s by no means a terribly happy song, but the delicately pretty guitar pattern sends the listener out on a mirthful note, encouraged that one of electronica’s best artists has not lost his touch.