Over the course of a truly inspired career, London’s Four Tet, a.k.a. Kieran Hebden, has remained ahead of the curve, sidestepping obsolescence by folding new strains of sound into his already rich jazz/hip-hop/folk base. Last year’s Ringer EP found Hebden reveling in the hypnotic, developing 10-minute songs that ditched the dissonance of 2005’s Everything Ecstatic in favor of calmer waters and subtler effects. There Is Love In You, his first proper album in five years, is smoother still, and to great effect—if this isn’t the best Four Tet record yet, it’s certainly a fresh face for Hebden.
These songs make no bones about their rhythmic inspiration. Most are four-on-the-floor, built atop recurring samples, but only the single, “Love Cry,” outwardly indulges in Ibiza-flavored house. (Even then, it’s under a dark cloud of dubstep digitalia.) Instead, Hebden does his contemporaries in The Field one better by using repetition as the beginning of the experiment, rather than its final resting place, as if thinking, “The music’s going to move in circles; now, how to interrupt those perfect curves?”
Each song is an exercise in craftsmanship, with the crystalline opener “Angel Echoes” patiently coming into focus, “Circling” starting over halfway through to rebuild with a new set of sounds, and “Sing” finding its pulse in a curious mix of Nintendo glitch and tined instruments—African thumb piano, an open Rhodes organ. Each unfolds into the next gracefully, until “She Just Likes To Fight,” one of the album’s shorter songs at five minutes, closes There Is Love In You. Sleepy as this final song is, it’s the record’s most surprising, beginning with a club beat, then morphing into live post-rock punctuated by hand-smacked percussion. It’s further proof that Hebden is incapable of phoning it in, and that he has plenty more tricks up his sleeve for the coming years.