Four Tet, Rounds (Special Anniversary Edition)

Michaelangelo Matos

By Michaelangelo Matos

on 05.28.13 in Reviews

The late ’90s and early ’00s were a fecund time for laptop-generated electronic…well, “dance” wasn’t really the word for it, but there were beats, and most of the time the music wasn’t pop, that was for sure. This music had near-aluminum sheen, its surface was glitch-laden or at least crinkly-sounding, full of clearly unnatural but oddly soothing timbral shifts of individual notes that spoke to their creation on a monitor’s waveform. As Four Tet, Kieran Hebden made that methodology his locus, but he also made it sing — made it sound, if not natural, then spontaneous, or at least freewheeling. He also wrote…well, “songs” wasn’t really the word for them, but there were beats, and if the music wasn’t pop, it was so listenable and replayable that, for a lot of people, it came close enough.

Rounds was Four Tet’s third album, but it was his first fully-realized one — the kind of album you’d have expected from Warp in its ’90s heyday. The music-box melody of “My Angel Rocks Back and Forth” balances elegantly against a beat full of stylus noise; separately, they might be too cute and too dry, but not here. This 10th-anniversary version adds a 74-minute second disc of a show from Copenhagen shortly after Rounds‘ release. It doesn’t supplant the original, but its extended variations on the album’s songs are worth a hear, particularly “Spirit Fingers,” whose speedy squelching riffs are taken so far past themselves they practically become ambient music.