While his Fridge bandmates have gone into high-tech web design (Sam) and created a solo album (Adem's lovely Homesongs), Kieren Hebden has managed to keep himself more than busy under the guise of Four Tet. In the past couple years, he's released two full-lengths, several EPs, an absolute boatload of remixes (which would probably fill two or three CDs worth alone) and produced an album for Beth Orton). In addition to all of the above, he's toured all over the world, even ending up 3 hours from my hometown opening for the Super Furry Animals (yes, it was a great show).
With his schedule so jam-packed, one might wonder where he'd find the time to do a new album, and yet that was part of the premise behind Everything Ecstatic. Instead of spending huge amounts of time laboring over it or creating bits on the road and then finishing them up when he had time, Hebden buckled down in his flat over a three month period and hammered away, banging out tracks that would become this release.
The differences from this release and his previous work are very apparent. The ten tracks on this release fly with reckless abandon at times, with much less of an emphasis on melodies and much more of an emphasis on drums and rhythm. If you've seen Four Tet in concert, you know that his live sets don't resemble his records very much (as he makes tracks much more dancey and upbeat in large part), and Everything Ecstatic seems to be the album that falls in line more with that. "A Joy" opens the release with a gritty bassline, some cowbell knocks, and some compressed beats bang away. He drops some squelchy noise and drum breaks at a couple points, but for the most part the track just thumps away.
The same goes for "Smile Around The Face," which taps along with a 4/4 kick and some other random percussion as a filtered vocal (almost chipmunk style) and some other shimmering melodies fall in and out of the mix. One of the more developed tracks on the entire release is the epic "Sun Drums And Soil," a six-minute epic that mixes warm rhodes keyboards, layers of dense drums, and some filtered vocals into a tribal-sounding treat.
Elsewhere, though, the album just doesn't have the innovation that previous albums from Hebden have shown. "Clouding" is a short, clangy track of kitchen-sink percussion and pinched keyboard wankery while the far-too-long "Sleep, Eat Food, Have Visions" drags all over the place, clocking in at almost eight minutes and mixing everything from old-school rave acid sounds to overdriven beats that don't go much of anywhere. While their are moments that recall his more thoughtful older work ("High Fives" is a gorgeous five minutes of filtered chimes, electronic chirps, and lo-fi beats), the release comes off as rather unfocused and a bit rushed as a whole. Here's hoping his next release strikes a better balance between playful mayhem and his usually more thoughtful melodies.