It’s a fact that needs checking but it seems that Kieran Hebden has taken far fewer holidays than I have over the past 25 years. Not that that’s a bad thing – the holidays are a perfect moment to explore his work. Between his legendary group, Fridge, and his solo career under the name Four Tet during which he’s done an enormous amount of producing and remixing, he’s also made music under his own name, as a way to maximise collaborations and musical experiments. Could that be a sign that this is his most personal work? That might be hard to answer, seeing as the diversity of his output seems to correspond quite naturally with the different facets of his personality. There appears to be nothing schizophrenic about this Londoner who loves speed as much as stillness, colour as much as monochrome.
A producer whose talent quickly blasted him onto the independent scene, Four Tet was soon being asked to work for other artists, but not with the aim of increasing the BPM or making people dance. His background is post-rock, through his work with Fridge, and he has also had some solo success in the world of folktronica. He was mostly recruited thanks to his skillful mixing of electronic and organic sounds. This is how he was working in the early 2000s for a large family of indie pop, rock and folk musicians who wanted Hebdan to repaint their music with his strange yet incredibly fluid palette of effects.
Radiohead (for whom he was a tour opener), Thom Yorke, Beth Orton, Bloc Party, Super Furry Animals, Boom Bip, Battles, Kings of Convenience and more recently Tame Impala are amongst the long list of artists who should thank him for taking their tracks on a magical journey.
By getting closer to the dancefloor through producing and DJing, Four Tet has naturally seen his remixes attract the electro scene (be that in the dance vein or no) such as when he worked for James Holden, Matthew Dear, Bicep, Daniel Avery, and Prins Thomas. His fascinating reimaginings can be compared to his amazing solo sets that I’ve had the great fortune to have experienced over the last ten years, including a phenomenal B2B behind the decks with his friend Caribou. His other close friends (from Jamie XX to Floating Points) have a shared passion to elevate the production of electro music by keeping it accessible to as many people as possible, especially during their DJ sets. Though this hasn’t stopped Four Tet from collaborating in the studio with school friend Burial, the iconic dubstep producer; working under his own name on numerous occasions with Steve Reid, the mythical jazz drummer (Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Fela, Sun Ra…) who passed away in 2010; and being called on to play keys for the American Laurie Anderson.
This is Four Tet, the pseudo-loner who shares his science with others and comes into his own upon contact with them. I’d like to be friends with him too.