Four Tet Challenges and Thrills

October 25th, 2010

Four Tet – Webster Hall – October 22, 2010

Against a starry backdrop, Four Tet, the stage name of Kieran Hebden, quietly blended into the celestial scenery. But for a neon yellow T-shirt, he allowed the music, rather than his presence or performance, to occupy the foreground. That the bulk of the songs came from his most recent LP, There Is Love in You, seemed wholly appropriate given the audience’s excitement and familiarity with the album. When the glitchy, haunting female sample from Love in You’s lead track, “Angel Echoes,” emerged from the soundscape, appreciative cheers followed. And an extended buildup and breakdown of “Sing” gripped the crowd, moving bodies while enlivening minds.

Hebden’s talent for creating introspective yet dance-oriented electronic music, stimulating rhythmically and challenging aurally, turns out to be his greatest strength. While many electronic musicians are capable of creating interesting sounds, he blends, isolates and removes samples in an effort to engage and disrupt his listeners’ expectations. A few times, as the crowd began to clap with the songs’ rhythms, Hebden switched the beat, either tricking those who hoped to participate or working to deconstruct convention, depending on your interpretation.

This is the spontaneous and original element that Hebden brings to his live music. With the twists of knobs and the pacing of samples, the album’s tracks became a reflection on Hebden’s process and intentions. Love in You is intimate but entirely conscience of its audience, and Hebden showed an awareness of the crowd, flashing the occasional smile while modestly going about his business. Such a brilliant yet humble performance turned out to be as impressive as the set, a tribute to Hebden’s musical intimation. —Jared Levy