No more than 48 hours before rediscovering Four Tet’s Rounds, I caught myself questioning the ability of “in-the-box” producers to conceive “out-of-the-box” projects. When an artist’s tools are confined to a laptop, can one really affect the behemoth that is electronic music? As I nestled into the heartbeat of ”My Angel Rocks Back and Forth”, I realized that notion could not have been more wrong; great art lives outside of its mere resources.
For Rounds — recorded during 2002 and 2003 in his small flat, using just an old Dell, cracked software, and an arsenal of samples he had been amassing since 1997 — Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden merged the IDM of Aphex Twin with the hip-hop sampling technics of DJ Premier to evoke emotions most would deem impossible from a seemingly random assortment of vinyl snippets. The squeals of a childhood plastic squeaky toy (“Slow Jam”), sitar arrangements paired with distant gong blasts (“She Moves She”), and a woeful piano arrangement (“Unspoken”), are just a few of the sounds pulled together by Four Tet to complete the 43-minute aural diary that encapsulated 10 months and two relationships. A saga that has gone onto influence artists like Thom Yorke and Flying Lotus.
Now accompanied with a seven-track live disk, the re-issue finds Four Tet rejecting the “folktronica” tag that originated in the wake of Rounds. Recorded during a free show in Copenhagen a year after the release date, each track is more volatile than its studio incarnation. Fracturing the original beauty of “She Moves She”, the live version is stretched over 10 minutes to the point of decay and high frequency noise.
Like his career, Four Tet didn’t care so much if that leap was correct, just that it was moving forward.
Essential Tracks: “My Angel Rocks Back and Forth”, “Slow Jam”, and “She Moves She” (Live In Copenhagen)