Published May 22, 2016Having moved well beyond the "folktronica" label he was saddled with early on in his career, Kieran Hebden's more recent work as Four Tet has been heavily influenced by house music. Naturally, that influence has translated to Hebden's role as a DJ too, and house was exactly what he gave the people who packed Toronto's Coda to watch marathon sets from himself and fellow Brit Ben UFO last night (May 21) — an event that ran until five o'clock in the morning.
Perched behind the venue's wall of speakers, Ben UFO primed the dancefloor with a set that primarily drew from house and garage. Apart from a single less-than-clean transition, his work behind the decks was both engaging to listeners and a hit with the dancers, locking them into a steady, unrelenting groove powered by drums and bass. With each track putting the rhythm section at the forefront, he dropped the low end, the drums and even both from the mix to build anticipation, eventually bringing them back in to enthusiastic "woo"-ing from the crowd that became a "U-F-O" chant as his set drew to a close.
Starting his own set at a little past 1:30 a.m., Hebden wasn't shy about putting some of his other influences on display first. He opened his set with the steady sway of two reggae tracks before moving to some older soul, then loading up a few hours worth of dance. Even within the electronic portion of the set, calling cards to other genres still remained; basic four-on-the-floor rhythm patterns gave way to those of soca and Caribbean flavor, beats incorporating congas and shakers resisting a purely electronic sound, while vocal samples in other languages remained indecipherable over the roar of percussion and low end from the venue's sound system.
Hebden remained animated the entire time he was in the booth; not over-the-top expressive like some larger EDM DJs are known to be, but instead calm and calculating as he moved to the beat, deciding what to play next. He also gave dancers a welcome reprieve from the faster tempos and rolling rhythms by splitting up his set with some gentler fare. His own "Ba Teaches Yoga" from 2013's Beautiful Rewind functioned nicely as a palette cleanser with bubbly synths, looped vocal samples and shuffling drums, while a rework of Rihanna's Anti cut "Kiss It Better" saw the song's guitars and electronics get replaced with a gentler kalimba melody.
Outside that, it was all garage, UK dubstep, and house tracks to lead the most dedicated dancers through until the early hours of the morning. Ben UFO joined Hebden behind the decks once more at 3:30 a.m. for some tag team selections, highlighted by the bass-heavy shuffle of the latter's "Pyramid" and some Canadian flavor in Daphni's "Ye Ye." Finishing the evening how it started, Hebden finally cued up some breezy reggae to soundtrack the sun's rise and welcome the new day.