Four Tet provides ecstatic dissonance with “Everything”
By Zen Naylor
The Northern Light
The unsettling sounds of dissonance arrived in the Western world on the erratic waves of the industrial revolution. The machines of factory assembly lines and the churning of a steam engine added a new drone and rhythmic dimension to the organic frequencies of our “modern” reality. Although tonal dissonance had always been an essential part of Asian traditional music, it wasn’t until American jazz incorporated Eastern elements into its own repertoire that these aural qualities finally became popularized in the Western world.
On “Everything Ecstatic,” the third album by Four Tet, Kieran Hebden epitomizes this evolution of sound. In fact, the one-man band takes the process further by successfully warping folk, pop, electonica, ambient, and hip-hop into an exotic mix of dissonance that may taste like Vegemite on the first listen. The album begins with a free-jazz drum roll provided by Steve Reid (a drummer for James Brown and Fela Kuti). However, we’re soon thrown on an assembly line, fueled by a hypnotic bass drone that sounds like a distorted didgeridoo. Acid-jazz rhythms accompanied by electronic hand-claps flow throughout the piece. This track, titled “A Joy,” reaches its climax with a frequency frenzy of computerized chaos.
In the second song “Smile Around the Face,” Reid is abandoned for an analog drum machine that may have been pawned by Depeche Mode after their first album “Speak and Spell.” With soulful wails (or whales) that sound like Mariah Carey on psilocybin, the piece feels like we’ve stepped into a room of distorted mirrors at a fun house.
It may be easy to detect Hebden’s connection to Radiohead in “Ecstatic”’s fourth song “Sun Drums and Soil,” which sounds a lot like Radiohead’s “Where I End and You Begin.” Of course, this relationship shouldn’t seem odd, since Hebden has actually done some production work for Radiohead. Track five on “Ecstatic” is appropriately named “Clouding.” This extended interlude transports us to industrial Tibet, where a group of monks chime the sawed-off barrels of Chinese rifles, as singing bowls moan dissonantly beneath a stratocumulus sky. To capture the true atmosphere of the experience, it’s best to imagine Terry Gilliam directing this sequence.
Song six “And Then Patterns” continues our meditation with a surreal piano canon consisting of flanged percussion and a modulating metallic drone. At the beginning of song seven, “High Fives,” Hebden adjusts the tempo of the album by tweaking the frequency oscillators like a sadist administering shock treatment. A steady drum beat, random electronic patterns, and multi-layered marimba melodies enhance the therapy. By song nine “Sleep, Eat, Food, Have Visions” we are ushered into a psychedelic disco at an abandoned warehouse. This stereophonic collage is a sonic tour de force filled with subtle ambience and powerful rhythms.
For some listeners, “Sleep” may cause a sensory overload. However, the last song, “You Were There With Me,” is like a refreshing stroll through a Balinese garden. As we wander, we arrive at a puppet performance. We are mesmerized by the elaborate melody of the East Asian percussion, so we stop to contemplate our first “Ecstatic” aural experience. Suddenly, the sound of our heart’s rhythm surfaces as we realize that we are the puppets, and the strings of dissonance have always directed our own minds and movements.
Funeral for a Friend should bury its latest offering
By David Waldron
It’s official: screamo is played out. For those of you not in the know, screamo is a blend of emo and hardcore that has been made successful by bands like Thursday and From Autumn to Ashes. The idea is to extract the energy of heavy music while still having plenty of melodic, heartfelt lyrics.
While Funeral for a Friend’s new album, “Hours,” is less scream and more emo than previous releases, it’s still stuck in a genre where you have to shine to be recognized from everyone else. Unfortunately for FFAF, “Hours” offers nothing that 100 other bands haven’t already offered. It’s lyrically dull and musically boring.
This can all be seen on the track “Streetcar.” Lyrics such as, “We can talk for a while, but I have sweet nothings to say, you don’t want me anyway, so why should I stay” are sure to please anyone who despises creativity.
On occasion FFAF offers somewhat clever guitar riffs that will likely paste a grin on Thrice fans out there, but these small bursts of quality can’t pull the album out of the blandness it revels in. Even the song “The End of Nothing,” which is the loudest song on the album, just seems like a bone that FFAF throws to hardcore fans.
While it’s possible screamo may still be strong and kicking, FFAF doesn’t help strengthen its position in the musical realm. “Hours” is nothing you haven’t already heard before.