FOUR TET Pause (Domino)

Four Tet is the nom de tune of one Kieran Hebden, who is also gainfully employed as Badly Drawn Boy's live guitarist, and "Pause" is his second long player. His music is easily, if lazily, described as post-rock, the kind of entrails-out guitar expositions that Dave Pajo trademarked in his work back in the day with Slint right through to his Papa M/Aerial M incarnations. However, whilst Pajo restricts his experimentation to the melodic domain, Four Tet plays refreshing new tricks with the post-rock sound palette. Entwining the eleven tracks on "Pause" are all manner of found sounds, including what appears to be the clatter of electric typewriters and adding machines, distorted waves breaking on the shore (surfing on sine waves, anyone?) and children playing in the park. Other new elements added to the mix include harpsichord, harp and glockenspiel, and a wry sense of humour evident in titles such as "Leila Came Round And We Watched A Video" and "Hilarious Movie Of The 90s". "Tangle" even jangles in a manner pleasantly reminiscent of Shack's "Undecided". So what can we call this enjoyable whole? Is it some kind of scientific chamber pop, laboratory muzak? Eno as axe hero? Whatever it may or may not be, there's something refreshing about "Pause" that cleanses the palette: it's rare to encounter music this spry and unpretentious, and it makes a lot of recent releases appear weighted down and lead-booted in comparison. And respect to Domino for treating "Pause" to another of their fine 'n' chunky vinyl pressings.

FOUR TET Rounds (Domino)

rounds.jpg (14346 bytes)If it's not already a clich to suggest that Kieran Hebden is the Aphex Twin of the guitar then the excellence of "Rounds", his third outing as Four Tet, will surely make it so. Think of the tape tinkering of "In A Silent Way", but on a microscopic scale: works such as "Hands" offer swirling, fragmentary, Brownian motion melodies that seem to dissolve almost upon hearing. (What's the old truism about it being impossible to measure something without changing it?). Elsewhere "My Angel Rocks Back And Forth" is less a tune than a tantric exercise in controlled pleasure release, and "Spirit Fingers" could be Tortoise fast-forwarded to near-comic velocity. "As Serious As Your Life" plays a kind of curious, constrained funk, like Daft Punk heard from a long way away, whilst "And They All Look Broken Hearted" is redolent of the mysterious machinery that scampered over Aphex Twin's "Drukqs" box.

It hardly detracts that Domino have seen to issue "Rounds" as a weighty double vinyl set, spreading its single album length over four sides for maximum sonic boom, and they've benevolently also slipped a copy of the CD booklet inside the sleeve so you don't miss out on all the glossy (if tiny) photography. But that's just icing on a frequently astonishing cake, and if Hebden can bring just a soupcon of that wonderment to his rumoured production role on the next Beth Orton album he'll surely do diverting things to the mainstream.