Hebden’s mix may not be smooth, but his musical vision is distinct.
Chris Power 2011
The 59th edition of the FabricLive mix series might just be the most ‘live’ sounding of all, interspersed as it is with field recordings made at the London club. Hearing muffled drums and chattering voices is not unlike moving from room to room within Fabric’s cavernous interior. Even on its most eclectic nights, however, you might not be likely to hear grime following 30-year-old synthesizer experimentalism, or rare acid house twitching along beside even rarer stripped-down garage.
Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet, casts this mix as being "about London and Fabric and nights out and my take on all that. The memories and the influences." It’s not, he stresses, "about my DJing." Just as well, as this is far from smooth as a mix. But flow is sacrificed with good reason. For straight-up genre DJs 75 minutes is long enough to craft a dynamic set. For those with wider tastes, however, the range of styles tends to need shrinking for coherence’s sake. But with the glut of mixes that are available for free online, Hebden is right to think that presenting a distinct musical vision is more valuable than getting the listener from start to finish with as few bumps as possible.
It’s a decision that pretty much pays off, the result more a collage than a traditional mix. After the opening sounds of passing traffic and mumbling voices have faded away into the blissful electronic trickles of Michel Redolfi’s 1981 track Immersion Partielle, the mix eases into a mini-set of 2-step, grime and UK funky. Hebden’s been around long enough to plot accurate lines between past and present, so while tracks like Genius’ Waiting (1998), Apple’s Mr Bean (2007) and Floating Points’ Sais (dub) (2011) span more than a decade, there’s plenty of connective tissue linking one to another.
Halfway through the mix resets: another field recording, another synth number from 1981. As with the Redolfi track, David Borden’s The Continuing Story of Counterpoint, Part Nine represents something of a false start, trilling into silence before being replaced by the stark Hoover techno of STL’s Dark Energy. Nevertheless this section contains the best actual transition between tracks, as the crumbling, organ-like tones of Burial’s Street Halo rise above the competing buzzes of Angie’s F***ed by C++.
Then the mix hiccoughs again, Street Halo fading away completely before the raw vintage garage of KMA’s Cape Fear jumpstarts the final section. Veering between the retro rave of WK7’s Higher Power, the muffled shuffle of Villalobos’ Sieso and Armando Gallop and Steve Poindexter’s paranoid acid house, the mix ends only for a new Four Tet track, the pleasant Locked (one of two new productions from Hebden here), to emerge like an encore. Typically of the mix, it’s a dislocating moment that’s largely redeemed by the quality of the music.