Four Tet review – no one else can make dance music sound so beautiful

ICA, London

Hebden operates with skilled precision, crashing through transcendent ragas with brutal techno and ending the gig with elegant house remixes

Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet, stands in the centre of a dark room, hunched over a table littered with technology and surrounded by 16 strands of white beads hanging from the ceiling to the floor.

Hitting a button, he shatters the reverential silence with the sound of popping beats. The cage-like curtain around him lights up in pastel and primary hues, revealing the expectant faces of fans encircling him and the experimental producer suddenly seems more like an exotic zoo exhibit.

Not that Four Tet notices. With a furrowed brow and the single-mindedness that’s seen him – over 17 years and eight albums – successfully blend jazz, hip-hop and folk with dance music, and remix everyone from Radiohead to Grimes, the hometown hero is oblivious to everything but the music that grows, organically and deliberately, around him.

His latest album, the gorgeous, intimate two-track Morning/Evening, is his least frenetic, most personal work yet, and it’s around this that he builds his 80-minute set. He begins with Evening, pushing the meditative female wail back and forth in the mix among chiming synths and insistent beats. He moves between his laptops and gadgetry with skilled precision, and enjoys extremes – turning knobs one way then the other, intuitively upsetting the most hypnotic moments with sharp synth glitches.

During the raga-inspired Morning, a transcendent sample of Lata Mangeshkar angelically warbling Main Teri Chhoti Bahna Hoon is pushed aside for raging industrial techno, before India’s nightingale swoops in again with her ethereal song, taken from 1983 Bollywood film, Souten.

But it’s Four Tet’s abiding love of house music that turns this set from arty installation to sweaty gig. The bass thuds, the beats pulsate and while he never takes the easy way with predictable climaxes and signposted breaks, a new remix of CHVRCHES’ Leave A Trace proves that no one else can make dance music sound so beautiful.


Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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