Four Tet - Everything Ecstatic

This is definitely not tasteful 'folktronica' – it sounds more like gabba in a food processor.

 

 

Four Tet was probably the first person to be labelled as producing folktronica. As with most labels, folktronica obscured much more than it illuminated. So he's hung around with the legendary Vashti Bunyan but that no more makes him a folky than I become an OAP by hanging around with a bunch of octogenarians. Four Tet likes pretty much all kinds of music, I would think.

 

Folk yes, but jazz too and probably bits of everything else along the way. Folktronica would, I imagine, only end up annoying people that thought they were getting folk with a bit of knob twisting and people that thought they were getting electronica with a little bit of 'real' instruments thrown in. So for God's sake lets not call this jazztronica, because I imagine that someone somewhere is probably tempted.

 

Everything Ecstatic is a messy, sketchy album that is full of energy and drums and gives off the definite whiff of jazz. I don't know much about jazz myself so I won't namedrop people like Sun Ra – of course, anyone who is convinced that he comes from Saturn is OK by me - but I will merely state that the rolling, tumbling drums and the occasional blasts of squealing horns suggest to me that Four Tet has been has been dusting off his favourite jazz albums.

 

It's not just drums and horns though – in fact the horns don't appear much at all. The album opens with A Joy and whilst the drumming appears pretty jazzy there are also loops of deep and buzzing bass, synthesiser squiggles and oodles of interference. It immediately signals a change from Four Tet's earlier work.

 

Previous albums could have been played in the wrong sort of bars  - you know the ones I mean, the ones filled by people that don't really like drinking but who do like sitting in flat caps and listening to some shithead mate of theirs dj-ing – but this one couldn't. The title refers to an exploding, ever shifting sound, one that never really settles but keeps on moving and looking for new ways to get inside your head. In no way could it be considered background music. Smile Around the Face features 80s synths, jazzy drums, cymbals, military drumming, snippets and gurgles of electronic effects and even, at times, a bit of a melody. Sun Drums and Soil emerges from some furious drumming into a DJ Shadow style track, complete with some melancholic keyboards that the Boards of Canada would be proud of. And Then Patterns also features some downbeat keyboards and is probably the nearest thing on here to Rounds and Pause (Tet's last two albums). But there's not much here that dwells on the lugubrious. Sun Drums and Soil is pretty hyperactive in general anyway and most of the other tracks don't hang about. Sleep, Eat Food, Have Visions really gets going. It starts off with some old school computer bleeps until a looped melody emerges, surrounded by electronic noises that resemble insect sounds. Then a drilling drumbeat emerges which eventually starts to stutter and break down. This is definitely not tasteful 'folktronica' – it sounds more like gabba in a food processor.

 

The album finishes with You Were There With Me, a gentle track (and a much needed one after the previous assault) that resembles a windy day in a new age garden. Full of bells, chimes and shimmering effects it is much better than I have just made it sound. So, ecstatic indeed, though I can't help feeling that it may put off some of his fans. Good. Good that he's getting on and doing what he wants even if a few ofthe tracks on here seem a little throwaway. It is odd to think that Four Tet has created this album (I presume) in the same way that he has made his others –by sitting in his basement and putting together the record from samples on his old computer. Because when he and Adem get together to make their Fridge records the albums (made with 'real' instruments) can appear rather dry and mathematical. Separate them, and in one case give them a computer, and the sounds that emerge are anything but.

 

Words: Chris Dawson