Published Jan 22, 2010After a five-year layoff that saw Kieran Hebdan record four LPs with famed American jazz drummer Steve Reid (along with a reunion album with his band-mates in Fridge), Four Tet return with There is Love in You, his most polarizing piece of work to date. Upon hearing the sliced-up, R&B-inspired, vocal sample-heavy album opener, "Angel Echoes," it becomes apparent that Hebden has indeed been bitten by the dub-step bug. The garage-inspired nine-minute single "Love Cry" sees the bony Four Tet of yore clashing with this new, sleek, soulful model. This is further explored by the shuffling beats and syncopated melodies of "Sing" and "This Unfolds," and the dark ebb and flow of "Circling" and "Reversing." This isn't to say that There is Love in You is groundbreakingly different than anything Hebden has created in the past, but it's the little things, like the Caribbean-hum of "She Just Likes to Fight," which add new dimensions to his repertoire. This time around, Four Tet is slightly less efficient, often letting the novelty of the sound alone carry the song towards the six- or seven-minute mark. There is Love in You is a prime example of artist as analyst, returning to form just by reworking it.
Can you talk a bit about the recording of There Is Love in You? Was there anything noteworthy about the recording? Did you approach your songwriting process differently?
Hebden: The record was recorded at home just with my usual set-up, the usual way I like to record, using the computer and stuff. I spent most of 2009 making the record on and off. One of the big changes for this record was that I was DJing while I made it; I tried out tracks as I was making them. I was doing a residence in this club ― Plastic People, in London ― and some of the tracks on the record, especially the more kind of upbeat tracks, like "Love Cry," which was the first one I made for the album, I was playing it every single month down in this club and changing it here and there, coming up with new ideas to make it work based on how it was sounding on a club sound system and seeing the crowd react to it. I think that was the biggest change: the tracks were tested out on audiences in a sort of clubbing environment beforehand.
And you've never done this before?
No, not at all, and this is a pretty traditional way of doing things, but being a dance producer, I've never done that before.
You've recorded improv-style music with Steve Reid. Is this the DJ version of improv?
Yeah, I guess, in some ways. I've tried to have that mentality for a while; I've always let things have space and evolve and change. The stuff with Steve Reid is the most extreme example ― improvising every night and changing total structures and rhythms in songs. The way you play things when you DJ, it can change a lot. The live improvising stuff I was doing really came to play on the last Four Tet album: Everything Ecstatic. This album is a lot more controlled, in many ways. There would be tracks that I would like and tracks that I would keep on refining over a quite a long period of time to make something sort of stripped down.
Structure-wise, would you place your Four Tet recording somewhere in between your material with Steve Reid and your work with Fridge?
Maybe. With all of the music I do, I don't really see things going off sideways; I see it as all one kind of continuous song, where one thing always seems to lead to the next one in some ways. I was doing the Four Tet stuff and that was becoming a lot more improvised and that led me to the stuff with Steve Reid and that started getting me interested in DJing again because of the rhythms I was hearing. Things just sort of led to each other and they're all part of some beautiful journey, in some ways.
That said, do you find it frustrating when people call this your first album since 2005?
I don't really worry about it. People know that I do quite a lot of stuff and it's quite eclectic. Some people have a good handle on what I'm doing and some only notice certain aspects of it. It's true that there hasn't been a solo record since 2005. It's a bit frustrating, in some ways, but I don't really worry about things like that too much; you need time for one's story to make sense. I think only now do we understand what musicians in the '60s and '70s were doing when there's been some time to properly look at the whole catalogue of what they put out and what the musical progression was. So, in the moment, it's hard to pick up on what everyone is dong. There's a lot of music out there.
Between the release of Everything Ecstatic and There Is Love in You, you've released four albums with Steve Reid, along with an album with Fridge. Did you plan to take such a long break between solo releases?
I did decide that I wasn't going to do any Four Tet stuff for a little while. After Everything Ecstatic, there had been three albums, kind of one after the other, and then I did a lot of touring, I got to the point where I thought, "Oh, okay, it's time to do some different things and try and push myself"; it got a bit comfortable, in some ways. I wanted to try and do something that felt less kind of familiar, and straight away I started doing stuff with Steve Reid and it was brilliant; it was all kind of refreshing and I didn't even know when I would work on solo music again. Then in 2008, I made a few tracks that ended up becoming the Ringer EP and that got me interested in making solo, sequenced music again. All of the music I was making with Steve Reid or with Fridge was quite live and I was interacting with musicians and I had a break from doing the music that I've done for so long that was just me and a computer. It was just a different way of working and I needed a break from it.
You seem to exclusively work with artists that create music that's mostly structure-less. Have you considered working with anyone who works in the traditional rock spectrum?
I don't sing and I've never worked with songs. That's never sort of been something I've been involved in. Like having a verse, chorus and a bridge, I've never had that in any of my music. I can't sing at all and I've never wanted to have vocals and sing lyrics. Apart from remixes, it just seems alien to me; it's not in my instinct at all.
Tracks on the new album draw inspiration from dub-step producers like Burial, Joker and Kode9. Have artists like these inspired your music as of late?
I live in London [England] and that's something you kind of hear all around. I've always taken an interest in the underground dance music scene in London. When I was a teenager, drum & bass happened and since then I've always been aware of the underground electronic music going on here. There's always something interesting going on and after drum & bass there was garage and two-step, which has evolved into dub-step and now dub-step is sort of branching out into all of these other little things. Some of it is getting a bit more like techno or house music, so I think I'm always absorbing that music and following whatever the current producers in London are. It's a particularly good time in London; it's really fresh. There's a guy named Joy Orbison whose sound I really love and Floating Points, another young guy from London putting out stuff. There's a lot of good, small labels putting out really interesting twelve-inches and I'm sure influences from that stuff have seeped into my music.
You've toured with Caribou and played numerous shows across Canada. Has there been anything you've heard coming from Canada that has caught your attention as of late?
I've got quite a few friends who are musicians from Canada who I'm always following. Dan Snaith from Caribou has been over, playing mixes of stuff from his new album and that's going to be one of the big records of 2010; I think it's absolutely amazing. I follow everything Koushik does on Stones Throw; I have a few demos of tracks from the new Born Ruffians album, which is sounding really good. I've become friendly with quite a few Canadian artists, so I'm hearing music from there all of the time.
What musical plans do you have for the next year? Any new material or a tour?
The plans for the moment are that the album is going to come out and just a lot of touring and stuff. I think the touring and promotion of this album will take up most of my year; I'd like to work on other things. I might do the odd remix here and there, but I don't like to plan too much ― anything can happen. I could meet someone on my travels in the next few months and it could change my plans completely, but for now, most likely, the album's going to come out and I'm going to focus on live stuff and DJ stuff for the next six or seven months. The first leg I have in North America, the only Canadian date I have is Vancouver and I'm sure I'll make it to other parts of Canada. Just slowly planning everything out. I played Toronto in 2009 and I haven't been to Vancouver in four years. I'm in the middle of a remix with Pantha du Prince; it's a track that has Panda Bear from Animal Collective singing on it. I'm also working on a remix by a guy named Babe, Terror; he's from Brazil. I've just done a remix from this thing, it's from Canada, called Tegan and Sara. They're like, twins. I've just done a remix for them, a song called "Alligator," and I just got an email saying that it'll be on the next single. Other than that it's just album out and then tour. (Domino)