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Four Tet

Everything Ecstatic

In an ideal world, this is what you'd find if you sliced the top of someone's head off. Not bone and blood and quivering grey matter, but laser beams and Disney characters, woodland glades and softly tumbling confetti. This is what your Inner Hippy wishes every dream could be - not a confusing, sometimes upsetting, often disorientating jumble of half narratives and semi naked chase scenes, but a soothing stream of benevolent stimuli. Like staring up into the night sky at a passing meteorite shower, not worrying that you might go blind the next day and a race of mutant plants could take over the planet. Like taking hallucinogens and it all being a gentle, soft focus delight rather than something horribly unexpected.

Two years ago, "Rounds" saw Four Tet's Kieran Hebden establish himself as the master of accessible electronica, of what snobs and purists might label "electronic music for people don't really like electronic music". Its warm, organic reworking of the often antiseptic laptop trickery that had until then passed for electronica led to critics struggling for a new term - in the end folktronic seemed to sum it up the best. The process of re-evaluation will continue with "Everything Ecstatic", Hebden's fourth album as Four Tet. Is it electrodelia? Swoontronica? It's head music for sure, food for the imagination, but is it drug music or meditation music? Are we heading outwards or inwards?

Wherever we're going, you know you're in safe hands. Although there are a few harder beats on this record, a few hints of discord and tapes suddenly unspooling, there's nothing harsh and challenging about this trip. As a tour guide, Hebden unveils one pleasurable vista after another. "Sun Drums And Soil" follows a meandering, almost jazzy path through familiar world dance/rain forest territory, building until it reaches a percussive blur that's thrilling without ever being discordant or irritating. "And Then Patterns" is a perfectly paced drift through sunsets and waterfalls and the rest of the natural world's pleasure signifiers, the smiley chimes and relaxed beats never trying too hard. "High Fives" features some nice xylophone. Obviously.

Placed alongside the likes of Squarepusher, Four Tet is definitely electronica for people who don't like electronica (or least don't want a punishing hour of glitches and gear changes). But that doesn't mean that this is lowest-common-denominator feelgood mulch aimed solely at the mainstream. "Everything Ecstatic" pulses with imagination and subtle talent, choosing to follow a sweet technicolour road rather than take a harder, and far well trodden path. It's not quite the euphoric blast of its title, more the soft glow of the aftermath, but somehow you suspect that's the whole point. We're not going anywhere, inwards or outwards. We're just letting it all sink in..

Ian Watson
Music, film, comedy and travel journalist based in London

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