No one can deny that Kieran Hebden – aka Four Tet – is something of a genius. From an extraordinary output of LP’s that span nearly two decades to his unrivalled prowess on the decks (he recently mixed Wiley’s ‘Igloo’ instrumental into Cinderella’s ‘Bippity Boppity Boo’), Four Tet has irrefutably made a monumental impact on the shape of electronic music throughout the 21st century. His first of four live shows at the Village Underground was a jubilant celebration of his own such work; an intimate and beautiful affair that combined his famous light show (courtesy of Squidsoup) with extensive sound design and luscious production.
Be under no illusions, Four Tet’s live show is a far cry from the previously aforementioned DJ sets. Rather than demonstrating his eclectic taste, the live show puts Four Tet’s own productions front and centre. Stood at a wooden table in the middle of the crowd, you’d be forgiven for feeling like you’d intruded on Hebden at work: surrounded by Ikea lights and a plethora of analogue synths, laptops and mixers, there was a degree of intimacy conjured by the in-the-round staging that almost felt voyeuristic. Here was Four Tet at play, front and centre, demonstrating his technical ability as he tore through a setlist built heavily around his latest album, New Energy.
‘A jubilant celebration of Four Tet’s seminal works’
Much like the flow of New Energy, the set consisted of more prominent songs and melodies interwoven by numerous stems and aspects from his extensive discography, and as such felt like a natural extension of his latest album. Tracks like Planet, Lush and Parallel Jalebi seemed to flawlessly flow from one another with the mix between them as captivating as the actual tracks themselves. Two Thousand and Seventeen and the flawless closer Daughter sounded absolutely phenomenal through the soundsystem, and it’s impossible to argue that Four Tet’s set wasn’t bolstered by the exceptionally meticulous sound design as a myriad of 3d sounds whizzed around the room in surround with impeccable clarity.
Despite all the ambient sound structures deployed, Four Tet proved that he still knows how to conjure some relentless beats to get the feet moving. Towards the 40-minute mark came the set highlight: a breakbeat section that spiralled into some sort of jungle throwdown, an enjoyably loose segment that almost seemed to evade control. Coupling an entrancing melody with some bass heavy breaks, Four Tet proved that even in improvisation he’s one of the most versatile producers around. Along with the big hitters of Kool FM, SW9 9SL and that avant breakdown during Morning Side, Four Tet displayed that he’s still got all the right tools in his catalogue for a raucous hands-in-the-air party.
‘Part art exhibition, part rave, there is no denying the unparalleled experience of hearing some of the most gorgeous productions whilst submerged in an electronic rainforest of colour’
It must be said that the show was assisted by fully realised sound design and light show. The dangling lights from Four Tet’s live show at The Roundhouse now covered the audience, creating one of the most original and gorgeous set designs I have ever seen. I can only assume Instagram is now a haven for artsy photos of colourful lights – I, myself, being guilty of the odd snap. All this is to say that this latest iteration of the live show feels like the true way to experience Four Tet’s music; the equivalent of seeing your favourite film on the big screen rather than on a tiny iPhone. Part art exhibition, part rave, there is no denying the unparalleled experience of hearing some of the most gorgeous productions in exceptional clarity whilst submerged in an electronic rainforest of colour.
It remains to be seen how well Four Tet’s live show will translate to the festival circuit; removing the intimacy of an underground technicolour delight and blowing it up into the open setting of a main stage, although I’ll be sure to cover that in upcoming reviews for Field Day and Lost Village. What is apparent, however, is the sheer effectiveness of Four Tet’s live set at Village Underground. Everything worked together to enhance Four Tet’s performance, creating an overwhelmingly triumphant hometown celebration of Four Tet’s seminal imprint on the British electronic scene.
Image: Tom Geraghty