I have a very clear memory of the moment when Kieran Hebden first landed in my musical world, never to never leave again. We were dancing, with pride, to French touch at a time when English IDM was in search of its second wind, and was about to get experimental and radical.
At the end of the 90s, with his group Fridge and his solo project Four Tet, the Londoner seemed somewhat lost in the fray – too learned for the dancefloor with his degree in maths and computer studies, but also less cerebral and more organic than many other English producers at the time. Fridge was part of a somewhat rural post-rock vein, though freed from the occasionally repetitive nature of the genre and with strong notes of liberating jazz. Acoustic guitars, bells, and children’s voices peppered their creations. Some called it indietronica, others folktronica. We’ll define it as a trio of guitar, bass, and drums, with a slightly higher-than-average use of samples. Though they never officially split up, the group is pretty quiet these days, having had their heyday between 1997 and 2007 with the five exciting albums they released during this period.
Although the name Four Tet is now much better known, Fridge was a great launch pad for Kieran Hebden as his solo career kicked off alongside the band. This gave Four Tet a chance to develop in a similar sphere but without having to listen to bandmates. He also tended more towards electro, even flirting with dance music at times. His work was to be found in the folktronica aisle with artists such as Caribou (who has become a close friend), the group Tunng, the Isan duo, and the songwriter Gravenhurst. This classification is somewhat reductive however, seeing as Hebden seems to know no bounds. He is capable of overthrowing a dancefloor with his DJ sets, performing as the opener for a Radiohead tour, remixing for the world and his wife, as well as collaborating with the mysterious producer Burial, the legendary Laurie Anderson, Thom Yorke, Steve Reid, and even David Arnold on the closing credits of the James Bond film Quantum of Solace (you’ll learn more about his work for other artists in the “Four Tet at Work” playlist).
Suffice to say that since my first meeting with Kieran Hebden I have tirelessly followed his journey and his experiments, remaining convinced that he still has so much to offer, his progress reflecting his own life as much as it reflects our own.