Four Tet: Remixes

Though this latest release might suggest that Kieran Hebden's vying for a ‘Most Prolific Artist of 2006' title, the two-disc opus isn't new material but a compilation of remixes he's produced for others (between 1999 and 2005) plus others' interpretations of his own work. The first half's about as diverse a collection as could be imagined, with cuts by Bloc Party and His Name is Alive rubbing shoulders with Pole and Madvillain; the second collects material that was largely issued only on vinyl.

Opening the set with a slippery, shape-shifting treatment of Lars Horntveth's “Tics” signifies that Hebden's remix selections were guided primarily by artistic than commercial considerations. His well-known love of hip-hop rings out loud and proud on the stoked version of Madvillain's “Money Folder” and the sweetly soulful take on Sia's “Breathe Me” is beautiful. What unifies the material is Hebden's free-spirited inventiveness and the kick-ass drum work he adds throughout. Nothing against Phil Selway, for example, but the steaming propulsion Hebden works into Radiohead's “Skttrbrain” is fabulous while the swinging fire he lights under Aphex Twin's “Untitled [SAW2 CD1 Track1]” and Bonobo's “Pick Up” is frankly awesome. Don't overlook either the nuclear treatment he gives Bloc Party's “So Here We Are” or the crisp funk groove he adds to Pole's “Heim.” Hebden's no quick-change artist as many pieces last longer than seven minutes (I'm guessing Beth Orton must have been floored when Hebden dropped his 12-minute re-invention of “Carmella” into her lap) so disc one definitely gives you your money's worth.

If the shorter second disc impresses less, it still includes a healthy share of strong moments. Stones Throw's Percee P ignites “A Joy” but it's the tune's rollicking groove that recommends it most (Battles later splinters the groove to excess in a less-satisfying deconstruction). Manitoba and Koushik shine sunlight onto separate treatments of “Hilarious Movie of the 90's” while Sa Ra Creative Partners give “Sun Drums and Soil” a soul-jazz makeover that could make Ammoncontact envious. The highlight, though, is Jay Dee's hot-wired makeover of “As Serious As Your Life” where voices get treated like so much silly putty and Hebden's original groove becomes a strut.

That the second half pales next to the first is no criticism of Hebden, incidentally, but more a comment on the quality of some remixers' efforts. The originating material on Rounds and Everything Ecstatic is hardly bettered by the new versions, for instance, though Hebden's own “As Serious As Your Life” overhaul brings some tasty head-nod to the project. The Four Tet remixes on disc one, on the other hand, are instructive in demonstrating that a remix can equal and even improve upon an original.

November 2006