“I am going to release a new Four Tet LP today.” This was the perfectly simple sentence posted from Four Tet’s Twitter account just a few hours before dropping his latest album 0181. If any other widely loved musician or producer tweeted this news, the Internet would have probably imploded on itself, but this is Kieran Hebden we’re talking about. This is the same man who drops 12”s on his label Text Records seemingly at will, plays obscure cosmic jazz and funk DJ sets at the drop of a hat and calls his latest single “The Track I’ve Been Playing That People Keep Asking About That Joy Used In His RA Mix & Daphni Played On Boiler Room”. So naturally, when Hebden posted that tweet, the world collectively smirked and calmly muttered: “tskkk…you’ve done it again Four Tet”.
0181 isn’t a completely new Four Tet album per se, but a collection of unreleased material spanning from 1997 to 2001. Furthermore, the LP is presented as one single track spanning 38 minutes and eight seconds. Once again, this is not surprising seeing as Four Tet’s Boiler Room appearances and other DJ sets tend to come without a track list, and Hebden seems to get a kick out of trolling his fans (the name of his latest single being a case in point). But with 0181, a tracklist really is the last thing that’s necessary.
The LP kicks off with a soft, arpeggiated loop before veering away into a four-to-the-floor beat at the 01:06 mark that doesn’t sound a million miles away from the kind of soothing house music heard on Four Tet’s 2010 record There Is Love In You. The beat then dissipates and is replaced by a haunting piano motif, which is then also swiftly replaced by a jazzy, acoustic guitar-laden breakbeat. And this is before you’re even five minutes into the record. Hebden has always been one of the most eclectic electronic musicians on the scene – his love for all kinds of jazz is well renowned (this BBC Radio 2 interview with Jamie Cullum is well worth checking out), and he manages to also stay right on top of the goings-on in house, garage and grime – and 0181 is the perfect showcase for that eclecticism.
Naturally, this collection of unnamed tracks bears resemblance to a lot of his earlier albums including 2001’s Pause, 2003’s Rounds (regarded by many as Hebden’s magnum opus) and the 2005 album Everything Ecstatic in the way that organic, natural samples are incorporated and presented in a simple but elegant style. Take the layered guitar samples at 09:49, the horn section that enters the fray at the twenty-minute mark or the acoustic guitar harmonics that serve as the outro to the album. The sheer rawness and human feel of these tracks make it somewhat hard to believe that they were created on nothing except a computer.
Elsewhere on this LP there’s hip-hop infused jazz at 14:01, some glistening, ambient synth work at 24:20 and even the babbling of an innocent baby at 16:46. If nothing else, it’s a cinematic journey that touches on far more sounds and influences than most great DJs manage to fit into a 2-hour set. And the lack of a tracklist makes that journey even more special.
If 0181 is a compilation of unreleased tracks spanning just four years, just think what else Kieran Hebden has hiding on his many hard-drives that remains to be heard. It’s almost scary.