Kieran Hebden’s compositional skill have always been one of the traits that separate him from less accomplished knob twiddlers; it infuses his music with a tenderness born of obsessive caretaking. Rather than simply gathering found sounds, he adopts them into his sonic fold with a permanence that inspires belief—a belief that we're in good hands. His penchant for absorbing disparate influences has played out across eight Four Tet studio albums and a number of satellite releases, resulting in a catalog stuffed with far-flung ideas filtered through a loving gaze.
Hebden’s latest Four Tet album, Morning/Evening, plays directly into one of his strengths: melding a coherent whole from fleeting parts. Split between two twenty-minute tracks, the album feels of a piece, its two sides serving as different sides of the same coin. Opening the “Morning” half of the album. muted kick drums and bleary-eyed synths set the stage for soundscapes that wash across the project. Soon, a sample of the Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar plays the part of the sun, energizing the track's ambiance with a near-constant presence from start to finish, and perhaps serving as Hebden’s most direct nod ever to his familial roots by way of his South Africa–born Indian mother. He layers Mangeshkar’s voice in gauzy drapes of synths and strings as the track progresses, growing in insistence—not through a rise in decibels, but through livelier drums. This awakening continues until the 15-minute mark—then, all percussion falls away, leaving only ripples of sound traveling outward until the track's finish.
“Evening” continues the focus on atmosphere. Around the three-minute mark, scattered bleeps give way to droning tones that dim the lights, calling for the listener to settle in for the night; these tones are joined by the ghosts of disembodied vocal snippets that begin about six minutes into the track. It's difficult to say if this is Mangeshkar’s voice, but given the theme, the vocals play like a memory of the song she sang to greet the day. Proper drums do not appear until 13 minutes have passed; a steady backbeat continues to get stronger and more syncopated until the track fades away at the last moment, eschewing any attempt at a grand statement. As with most days, this album does not end, it simply dissolves into tomorrow, leaving it up to us to imbue the sounds with meaning—and while this narrative ambivalence might not make Morning/Evening Four Tet’s most immediate release, it allows for near infinite replay value. It's not an album about any particular time; instead, it's an album about the passage of time And time always marches on.