Four Tet | Ringer EP
Most Likely To: help you block out the outside world and boost your productivity.
By now, Kieran Hebden must be pretty accustomed to the fawning superlatives thrust upon him by music critics and his fans. Do descriptors like innovative, genre-defying, virtuosic, and brilliant ever begin to lose their glow? The thing is that Hebden (and his work under the Four Tet guise) is entirely deserving of any and all such accolades, as testified yet again by his new Ringer EP, a mesmerizing thirty-two minutes of electronica that attains a minimalist feel through an intricately nuanced labyrinth of instrumentation.
To call the tracks on Ringer mesmerizing would be to understate their trance inducing qualities. Between Hebden’s implementation of hypnotic repetition and the extended track lengths it is impossible to not get sucked into these songs; you are weightless against their rip currents, futile in the undertow. They are as immersive as the metaphor suggests, as though hardwired directly to your synapses. The effect these tracks wreak is that of a focused coma (which is considerably more pleasant than that may sound).
What of the songs themselves? Things open with the title track, which slithers a synthesized blur for eight minutes before suddenly gasping for air with the belated introduction of a live drum kit. “Ringer” is a marvel of restraint, holding out on the flourish for a blissful eternity then delivering it with confidence. It is about as straightforward a mission statement as you will ever hear on a record, mapping out the tone for the rest of the release with a cartographer’s precise eye.
Next up is “Ribbons,” a song unorthodox in its seeming conventionality. It is, at least superficially, a simple dance music track. However, the whole thing is colored with the same magnetic, spellbinding character as “Ringer.” If Brian Eno’s entrance to the music scene were delayed forty years, there’s a good chance he would have composed this track instead–if not the entire EP. Following “Ribbons” is “Swimmer,” a nearly nine minute opus that takes the open spaces of the first track and anchors them to the electronic beats of the second. The formula makes for a waking dream that nudges you gently along its path.
Finally, there is “Wing Body Wing,” the sound of the dream turning by degrees into nightmare. Polyrhythmic arrangements and arpeggiated synths make way for more complicated patterns to stomp in and out before sinister mini-climaxes brusquely intrude. Eventually, the sequence reverses and the listener is left with a gritty percussive slugfest.
Then, in a moment of sudden silence, the alarm goes off, one’s dreams but a memory in the morning light. As quickly as it entered, the music exits. Quiet surrounds and one wonders what became of the last half hour.