1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 291

New Energy, by Four Tet
Suggested by Paul Wray

Four Tet is not a quartet, despite the quirky name. Four Tet is a man.

Even though it’s quite the style to have a single auteur behind the screen in electronic acts, I always feel somewhat cheated when there’s no real band behind the music. I feel that at least a nod towards design by committee creates a sweeter brew that a dictatorial figurehead calling all the shots. There are obvious outliers, of course. You can’t knock Bjork, or course, and Fatboy Slim has merit, but I feel that this conceit is a weird holdover from the bedroom electronic composer scene, a conceit you don’t see in the more democratic scenes. Look at metal bands. I doubt Brian Maiden, Jack Sabbath or MegaGeoff would have been successful as singular artists.

When ruddered by a strong hand, you know any creative project is likely to be a strident, maybe Marmite affair, so I was surprised to discover that New Energy felt rather lethargic and muted in places. I’d hoped for something more banging, but what I got was choral, intricate, and even ambient. While it’s perfectly pleasant, it’s unexciting. I found myself drifting away which may be by design, but it’s not conducive to informed reviewing.

If I had to praise New Energy, I’d say it was an open and spacious listen, free of the more claustrophobic nuance that can come from the more pounding quarter of this musical district. It’s uptempo and always optimistic, as you’d hope, and it has a reassuring and calm core that never offers a quarrel or sets your nerves on edge. On the other hand, this relaxed atmosphere can lead to the most annoying of ambient soundscapes, tracks so unassuming that you’re unsure they’ve started until they stop. Gentle Soul, Tremper, Alap, I’m looking at you.

The genteel vibe and unassuming stance of the stronger songs, however, is at least refreshing. The more traditionally club-style SW9 9SL will drag you to the dancefloor with it’s honest allure, while my standout track Daughter is a bizarre yet beguiling track that incorporates a bizarre otherworldly sampled vocal that’s almost Simlish.

While it had some nice aspects, this album was all too laid back and plinky plonky for me. Yes it was textured, and yes it was pretty, but there was precious little drive, and there were some tracks that were an actual waste of space. I award this 5/10, with a shrug. Four Tet promised me New Energy, but instead of a breathless gallop I got a sauntering stroll.

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