There Is Love In You
There Is Love In You is the sound of Kieran Hebden's Four Tet project reaching middle age. It can't run as fast as its younger competition and so doesn't try to do so, believing that what it can't offer by way of dynamism it can make up for in breadth of experience. His fifth Four Tet full-length is anything but an embarrassment yet, when heard alongside the kind of next-generation sounds currently pouring out of the UK—Ikonika, Joker, Zomby, Joy Orbison, et al.—, There Is Love In You can sound like it's in the slow lane. That's an especial surprise considering that Hebden recently fraternized with Burial when the two paired up on a 2009 two-track twelve-inch (Joy Orbison contributed a “Love Cry” remix to a recent Four Tet twelve-inch too).
The new release finds Hebden, as he's done so ably in the past, catalyzing a number of influences—classical minimalism, hip-hop, African, and house—into a heady, percussion-driven whole. Certainly “Angel Echoes” begins the album on a promising note. A simple drum pattern inaugurates the track, setting the stage for an angelic female voice to emerge, the clipped fragments of her yearning vocal arrestingly formulating the album's title, while tinkling mallet percussion patterns gradually swell into a sparkling weave. Meandering whirrs and static noise commingle during the opening minute of “Love Cry” to little effect at which point a trademark Four Tet drum groove kicks in to inject swing and funk into the tune. Four minutes in, a soulful female voice repeats the track title until the vocals multiply into polyphonic patterns and the swelling groove intensifies. The clubby track's a whirling dervish of sorts whose slow burn almost justifies its nine-minute running time. In “Circling,” triplet patterns of harp-like character form a swirling latticework that builds in urgency, growing increasingly delirious as the track's pulsating character comes into clearer focus. The blur of electronic tones and wordless vocals calls to mind the kind of early minimalism style one associates with Philip Glass circa Dance. With its insistently thrusting groove and simple, arcade-like synth motif, “Sing” pushes the album's material in a clubbier direction without sacrificing its experimental bent (apparently Hebden developed the album's material during a resident DJ gig at the London club Plastic People by dropping tracks into his sets and gauging the clubgoers' responses). Of all of the album tracks, “She Just Likes To Fight” finds Hebden looking wistfully backward to a more natural sound that would be even closer in spirit to 2003's Rounds were its guitar part acoustic rather than electric. Regardless, the tune's the prettiest thing on the album, and the generally stripped-down production style gives the guitar playing ample room to breathe.
So what's not to love? Well, one hears precious little euphoria or abandon during its forty-seven minutes, certainly a whole lot less than was heard on 2005's Everything Ecstatic, which did work up an occasional moment of frenzy. On the new release, everything's well under control and suffers at times as a result. The sixth track, “This Unfolds,” hardly sounds like Hebden operating at the peak of his abilities, and the slo-mo hip-hop beat that lazily anchors it is something he could do in his sleep. Yet, even here, just as one's ready to write the track off, Hebden rescues it during its second half by building it up layer by layer until it becomes a seductive sampling of trance music. There Is Love In You has more than its share of credible moments; nevertheless, the album would have benefited from a little more of the urgency and passion that helped elevate Everything Ecstatic above the competition.