More of the new, same but different energy. Kieran Hebden’s return to the traditional audio format after 2015’s Morning / Evening, delivers a new approach to sound, with a more refined craft towards organic instrumentation, alongside his trademark warm percussive structures on an album that is seductive, mature, and very much Four Tet.
This, Hebden’s ninth LP, finds the artist embracing a more structured approach to sound. It’s a natural progression from 2015’s stunningly underrated, two-track LP Morning / Evening; an album that used creative audio landscapes, and vocals, that were together in a meditative narration. Returning to the traditional record format, New Energy features 14-tracks of atmospheric, percussive, ambiance, and soulfully fulfilling music. It also features a wide array of organic instrumentation, harnessing Hebden’s knowledge of global sounds. This comes across as an extension of his Spotify playlist of music from Muslim countries he made earlier this year—in retaliation to the Trump travel ban. These sounds feature heavily on New Energy, from what sounds like a flute on "Two Thousand and Seventeen," to the serene vocal samples on "Daughter."
On this record, the club-orientated, dancefloor tracks that can be found on the likes of Beautiful Rewind and There is Love in You are gone. What’s left is a mature, ambient take that feels more reflective—and honest. Hebden has found the ability to use space in his music, while further embracing the organic nature of our pressing surroundings. It’s an album full of beauty, color, and yet while still remaining very much to the style of previous Four Tet records, it works well in expanding the nature and sounds of what Hebden achieves with every new record.
Going back, you can find this great video of Kieran Hebden making a track for Beat This in 2014, in which he shows off his studio dexterity, crafting a track from a Micheal Jackson sample in easily under ten minutes. Sampling records has always been a bit part of Hebnden’s work. His drums, clearly coming from a myriad of jazz samples; the vocals, stretched, processed to form the hooks of the majority of his biggest records. Even though samples play a big part on New Energy, there’s a lot of instrumentation and VST work, giving the record more character. As stated on the record’s Bandcamp page, New Energy was made using Native Instruments’ Kontakt, Omnisphere, the Arturia collection, VST plugins, and manipulations of audio recordings. The sounds and instrumentation, harnessed from his influences, and played through whatever VST he’s using, create an open expanse, allowing room to breathe within the tracks, and a sense of stronger composure and musicianship on behalf of the producer. Take "Memories," for instance, with the resonating harp featuring strongly in the track; or "Planet" —easily the standout track on the record—with its Eastern-sounding strings, and expansive layers,
There are some other beautiful touches on the record. "Scientists" features an incredible trumpet solo. "LA Trance" (featuring Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith— who by the way, is about to release an equally melodic and touching record later this year) is built around a subtle, yet exquisite melody and "Lush" features some really creative hang drum playing. It suffices to say that Hebden’s work producing for the likes of Omar Souleyman, and Roots Manuva has helped him grow as a musician. New Energy is ultimately an LP built around the exploration of globally infused sounds, and while it remains a Four Tet record, it’s also one that is expansive and belongs more to the global community.
It’s been 14 years since the release of Rounds—a collage of perfectly in-sync jazz samples, constructed in a cut-and-paste, big-beat pastiche as was popular at the time. 2010’s There is Love in You was easily a hallmark LP for Hebden, but still a record that was reflective of other music that was around at the time. New Energy finally feels like an album that is truly unique, and characteristic of Hebden’s style. An artist comfortable with his tools. And while "SW9 9SL," with its garage touch could belong on Pink, and the aforementioned "Lush" could have easily featured on Everything Static, these tracks are very much in the "new" camp, with an energy that is same, but different.
02. Two Thousand And Seventeen
03. LA Trance
07. Falls 2
08. You Are Loved
09. SW9 9SL
10. 10 Midi
13. Gentle Soul
New Energy is available now via this link.