by Cameron Seibold
“Percussions” is the dance music alias of Kieran Hebdan, best known by his moniker Four Tet. As Four Tet, Hebdan has spanned a broad range of computer based productions in the past 17 years: playful hip-hop and jazz influenced arrangements, folk and electronic mash ups, garage and techno influenced dance music and collaborations with artists like Burial, Thom Yorke of Radiohead and late jazz drummer Steve Reid. He is also known for his lively improv driven performances of original music as well as his work as a DJ and remixer. His resume is seemingly endless, and it doesn’t appear that he’s slowing down anytime soon.
“2011 until 2014” is a collection of tracks that he has released on his dance music label “Text records” over the past three years, as well as a few extra tracks made in the same time period.
Stylistically, it should come as no surprise to avid Four Tet listeners, as his past releases of “Pink” and “Beautiful Rewind” have been pushing toward a progressive, organic, techno and garage infused style, influenced by underground UK dance music trends of the past and present, but the new alias “Percussions” definitely signifies an audible change of pace for Hebdan.
Previous releases have always had an experimental, playful element, but these releases as “Percussions” are much more rhythmically straightforward with four-to-the-floor tunes, which is in no way saying that it is boring or predictable. There’s not a single ennui-inducing track on this compilation. Every song, ranging from two to eight minutes long, is engaging, gorgeous, fun and most importantly, incredibly dance inspiring.
The wispy clicks and rhythmic textures that start the first track imply the beat minutes before the percussion hits, gently inviting the listener into the dance tempo before it even begins. Trademark elements like the tom-tom drum that rises in pitch and repetitive choppy synth chords embellish the sound.
The track “Blatant Water Cannon” starts off with a chopped up, delay soaked sample, followed by booming kicks and shuffling garage hats and block snares, building into a soulful vocal sample and a dreamy swimming synth patch. Breaks into the simple raw beat at the core of the track give the listener a glimpse into Hebdan’s genius knowledge of how to make people move.
On track “KHLHI” we hear chopped up vocal bits layered on top of a beat constructed with a jazzy hi-hat and wandering bassy blips similar to acid techno. The vocal sample stutters rhythmically, leading into the full sample of Syreeta Wright’s “Keep Him Like He Is” that serves as a kind of breakdown — forget dub step, imagine the beat dropping into a lush loop of early ‘70s Motown soul. These kind of creative ways around dance music’s tropes are what make Four Tet an incredibly fantastic and innovative dance music producer. His vast knowledge of music and experience in many genres allows him to shed the trends and use sounds and influences no one else would think of.
Another great example of using very unique samples in dance music is in the background of track “Bird Songs.” It’s about as close to a traditional techno beat as the album comes to, but has layers of, you guessed it, bird songs and flapping wings layered on top. As intense as the beat is, the organic sounds of nature and the rhythmic qualities of the main elements turn it into something tranquil and meditative.
If it’s not obvious enough, I’m personally a big fan of Four Tet’s work under any moniker he chooses. His vast variety of work – whether it is jazz, “folktronica”, or pirate-radio themed new age music – and his ability to consistently progress and express his own unique eclectic style lands him in my top four favorite artists. Maybe I’m a bit biased, but hey, who doesn’t have preferences?
“2011 until 2014” is a fantastic compilation of dance tracks that showcases three years of creative efforts by a renaissance man of electronic production. These 11 club-forward offerings are consistent with Hebdan’s main body of work as Four Tet and bring a lot of new ideas to the table at the same time. Percussions “2011 until 2014” was released Jan. 13 and is available online at percussions.bandcamp.