15 March 2010

Four Tet: There is Love in You ---- a review from a technosonic perspective

Kieran Hebden’s seventh release as Four Tet, There is Love in You, is one of his most focused pieces and showcases many elements of technosonic music. Whatever genre Hebden’s work may be placed in, it can undoubtedly be traced back to some of the earliest technosonic efforts by artists like Karlheinz Stockhausen or Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry. Performing as a member of the 90’s post-rock group Fridge, collaborating with artists from all corners of modern music, and working as a club DJ in London has helped shape his music to the form it takes on There is Love in You.

Over the years Hebden’s experimentation on works like Rounds and Ringer has left several understandable dull patches in his efforts, but it is clear that Hebden is developing an ability to recognize the power of the right sound, something that technosonic artists strive to achieve. While they naturally aren’t perfect, Hebden’s techniques become so much more refined on Love; not a single tone or beat is wasted, and if that means resting on a single note or loop for a period of time then so be it. Supposedly his extended period of time as a DJ at the club Plastic People is somewhat responsible for such refinement. Hebden would bounce his ideas off of the public by playing the tracks he was working on in his sets and note their reaction, tweak his style, then return with improvements and repeat. One minute of Love and the listener can hear that it is not fist-pumping dance music, but functions as its sleepier, headier cousin. Love does not triumph over one’s sonic focus unless it is invited to, and simultaneously it can be hard to ignore. It is one of those albums that turns a simple endeavor, like a walk to class, into a mesmerizing and strangely physical experience.

Though he may not have studied them, Hebden has worked to champion the endeavors of the likes of Stockhausen, Schaeffer and Henry. Schaeffer’s theories of the l’objet sonore (sound object) present themselves in Love; Hebden maintains common threads of emotion and space through the utilization and repetition of keystone sonic entities. Additionally, he has grasped on to something that Schaeffer, Henry, and Stockhausen all touched on in their works. Through the introduction and manipulation of samples, whether generated electronically as in Elektronische Musik or recorded and sampled as in Music Concrete, those artists were aiming to create soundscapes full of dimension and depth, as opposed to other electronic forms of music which had the tendency to fall flat and thin on the ears. Hebden has a knack for arranging and editing samples to present themselves in a physical realm, each sound possessing its own segment of space.

Throughout Love, the overall feel of the music drifts and jumps between sounding perfectly live and acoustic to processed at mashed, creating an otherworldly sense. For instance, on the title track there is a soft, poppy, static-ridden, hiss of a vinyl record paired with a gently oscillating hum that sounds so mechanical and real, until a ghostly gong-like tone and gentle clip of a human vocal are introduced, at which point the hiss and hum begin throbbing: this is clearly going to turn into a different track than was expected. A crisp breakbeat surrounds the other samples, and highly filtered and processed tones begin escaping into the mix. Just like that, the listener is no longer in a small dusty room with an old record player and a radiator, but a space non-existent on this earth, one fashioned by Kieran Hebden in some alternate sonic reality. That bending and recreation of aural spaces is one major theme of the album, and something that exemplifies a main component of technosonic music.

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