Four Tet Remixes
our Tet Remixes is split into two discs, one devoted to Kieran Hebden's own remixes and another to remixes of his work done by his friends. It’s a concept that attracts a certain level of curiosity, for it reveals not only what influences Hebden and how he chooses to reconstruct them, but also flips the tables and does the same for his peers.
Hebden has been quite prolific as a remixer, providing new takes for musical acts that have diversified as he has evolved. Beginning with instrumental post-rock in Fridge, his first group, the past few years have also found him incorporating more genres and styles into his work, from hip-hop and jazz to world music and electro. The first disc of remixes succeeds primarily because it demonstrates his listening range and how he cleverly applies various styles of music to his heroes, all while creating soundscapes that are undoubtedly his own.
On the hip-hop front, Four Tet includes two of his five Madvillain remixes, one of which is the outstanding version of "Great Day," where ringing guitar and crashing drums change it from a casual jazz reflection to a cathartic triumph. For the ambient stylings of Aphex Twin's "Untitled," he chooses to redo it as dreamy drum n' bass, while Radiohead's "Scatterbrain" (here titled “Skitbrain”) uses wobbly xylophones, tumbling electronic drums, and clicks and cuts to augment the lulling guitar figure of the original. Even the post-rock and bedroom electronica artists that informed Four Tet's early works receive intriguing second takes. Rothko's "Roads Become Rivers" is fashioned into graceful melancholy, employing plinking acoustic guitars and a somber piano loop.
It’s too bad that the second disc doesn't offer nearly the same cohesion, fascination, or quality of the first. Whereas Four Tet's remix work discloses a multi-dimensional, intricate palette of soul and harmony, his colleagues present lazy, flat, and inferior interpretations of their source. The four remixes of "A Joy," comprising a third of the disc, all cleave too closely to the blueprint, taking three tries before a combination of Percee P's guest appearance and a slightly dissimilar beat by Koushik finally avoid repetition. The two most high-profile associates of Hebden, Jay Dee and Caribou, offer up remixes, but they were both created earlier in their careers, so they lack any of the innovation or attention to detail of their more recent output. Both fail to be especially interesting, with Caribou sticking to the placid-but-pleasant IDM of Start Breaking My Heart and Dilla doing essentially a Common beat for Guilty Simpson. The rest of the remixes fall into similar patterns—most sounding entirely too much like the originals, as if they didn't know how to do it any better.
Throughout his career, Four Tet has come off as one of the nice guys—an artist with a lot of friends. This much is obvious by the amount of remixing work he’s done here—and had done to him by others. That said, Four Tet Remixes would have benefited greatly from Hebden putting his foot down: making it a single disc and proving his relative artistic superiority in the remixing arena. As it is, the album is one disc—and about ten dollars—too much.