It is hard to put into words that which escapes them. Beauty is one word, and genius is another for the music of Kieran Hebden, otherwise known as the one man sound machine behind the Four Tet moniker. On a two-disc remix project aptly titled Remixes, Hebden is like a puppeteer with his fingers holding one end of the strings, directly striking his listener to the core, and your emotions dangling at the other.
The imagery one often associates with electronic music is often cold, mechanic and inhuman. But producers like Hebden are evolving the process, and the emotions he punches through beat machines are increasingly gaining impact. Feelings, and Hebden’s ability to express them, are a strong underlying theme throughout Remixes. He’s able to give his music a highly interpersonal feel, even with using free jazz-style drums, electronic glitches, and stop-go chopped loops.
Many of the songs, like his remix of Aphex Twin’s “Untitled,” pull your mind in opposite directions by employing soothing samples along with oddly syncopated drum patterns. The result is an equilibrated peace. On “A Joy” featuring Percee P, Hebden’s offbeat yet so on beat programming supports the legendary lethal lyricist’s vocals. Other highlights include a reworking of Madvillain’s “Money Folder,” where Hebden matches a 80s video game sample that sounds like it came straight out of NES’ Excitebike. The sound works perfectly with MF Doom’s cartoon persona.
The second disc features other artists remixing Hebden’s original tracks. On his remix of Hebden’s “My Angle Rocks Back and Forth,” Icarus consistently loops a piano riff throughout the track. It is not annoying as one might expect but, rather, is like that of a drum circle inducing a trance-like state.
Throughout Remixes, however, each song is clearly stamped with Hebden’s style and influence, even when he works via the music of others. The title of producer falls short of Four Tet’s work. Rather, Hebden is a composer in the true sense of the word.
— James O’Connor