Wax Runoff: Four Tet [TEXT036]
Everyone will at some point find a record in their collection with curiously long cuts on it. It is an almost played out joke of a DJ to mention these tracks as their “bathroom break” record. For those enjoying the sonic succulence of long tracks from the comfort of their home, these records present a rare chance to enjoy a single piece for more than 10 minutes without having to get up and flip the plate.
It is humorous to think that 1970s sound engineers and recording artists were under the impression that most recordings over four minutes would be too boring and negatively impact sales. In a current musical atmosphere where artists and labels no longer make significant money from sales, one of the biggest advantages for artistry has been an increased freedom for experimentation.
Enter Four Tet (Kieran Hebden), who has always been an artist known for embracing the weird and experimental. I often find that my friends who have no real interest in dance music are familiar with his work. Although that may be due to his involvement in film scores and more mainstream remixes outside the immediate house/techno realms, I believe it may have more to do with the fact that his work is not only interesting, but also just good music.
The 2015 release Morning / Evening is a splendid example of the musical genius behind Four Tet. It truly pushes the idea of how long a tune can be while still remaining one coherent piece of music. Indeed, both sides of the record clock in at about 20 minutes – long enough for not only that bathroom break, but also a cigarette and a call home to see how Mom is doing (she worries about you, you know?). The traditional info/logo aesthetic of center labels is forgone here in favor of textless crayon drawings of a sun and a moon on each respective side. The sleeve artwork is bright and alluring, featuring very similar patterns that appear to be repeating, but upon close examination reveal small changes – much like the tracks contained within.
The concept of the record reflects those times at a party where the vibe shifts. Both tracks make use of the same key, instruments, and samples, and yet both can initially trick the listener into thinking they are two entirely different tracks.
The “morning” side of course represents the sun washed and ethereal moments of the after party and begins with plenty of percussive movement while remaining light. The piece chugs along for quite some time before opening up to a fully ambient piece of music with tonal synths keeping the rhythm rather than the drums. The “evening” side is stylistically opposite. Aside from 64 measures designed to cue up the record, it begins with ambient synth exercises and gradually evolves into a percussion driven little techno tune that features his signature warm tape sound that once led fans to speculate he was behind the mysterious Burial moniker. The pieces are truly symbolic of when the party is just starting to fill in, and those moments when the last friends finally throw in the towel after a long night of drum loops and frequency filters.
Unfortunately, this record isn’t cheap. There is one copy on Discogs for a semi-agreeable $15 after shipping in the US, but all the others will have you spending over the sticker price of $16. But this shouldn’t deter you from keeping your eyes peeled for Four Tet slabs at any record store you visit. I’ve noticed due to the alt/ambient/non-dance oriented crossover appeal, Kieran’s work is located in shops where the electronic section is severely diminished or entirely non-existent. I subsequently got a hold of this record in the 50% off bin at an unlikely location. So stay sharp, support your local record store – and above all else – never stop coming early and leaving late from your favorite places to enjoy music with friends.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Nick States, of Boston, bought his first vinyl record in 2010 and has been hooked ever since. The record shop tends to be his first stop in an any city he visits.