Since first emerging in the late ‘90s, Four Tet (the solo project of London’s Kieran Hebden) has been one of the most versatile, unpredictable musicians working in the style somewhat begrudgingly known as IDM-- “intelligent” dance music. That genre tag is enough to induce eye rolling, especially when it’s attached to ambitious beatless sound collages, but Hebden’s always been deserving of the title. Whether he’s crafting drum ‘n bass, psychedelic-leaning house, krautrock-inspired epics, or off-kilter trip hop, Four Tet pushes sounds to places that no one else would think of.
In recent years, he’s been off the trip hop tip, opting for ambient-leaning house on his last album, 2015’s Morning/Evening, and more standard four-on-the-floor dance beats in a series of remixes completed for artists such as The XX, Mura Masa, and Tangents within the past year. But today, on a new single simply titled “Two Thousand and Seventeen,” he takes us back to a sound reminiscent of 2003’s Rounds, one of his best-loved albums.
The new track is pretty straightforward by Hebden’s standards, with a slow-rolling beat, gently humming bassline, and elegantly plucked dulcimer (or harpsichord?) all piling on top of each other one-by-one. It’s a common structure composed of familiar sounds, but in Four Tet’s deft hands, everything’s deployed with the utmost subtlety and care. Anyone could use “Two Thousand and Seventeen” as a template for their own “Four Tet type beat” YouTube recreation, but the attention to detail here seems near impossible to master. The way the strings organically trill, the sound design on those synths that rise up out of the song’s second half-- these aren’t things easily learned overnight.
Four Tet hasn’t announced a new album yet, but “Two Thousand and Seventeen” is billed as a new single, so be on the lookout for news of a Morning/Evening follow-up.
You can purchase the song on Hebden’s Bandcamp page.