Assessing the trajectory of Four Tet’s creative arc is like watching a drunk weave through traffic: dizzying, difficult to follow and ostensibly an accident is bound to occur -- except that it never has. Throughout his 15-year career, Kieran Hebden has glided across an array of genres, flashing a sonic schizophrenia and technical virtuosity that’s left label-obsessed music writers bereft of ways to categorize his sound.
Initially, Hebden was branded “post-rock,” forming Fridge with his schoolmates from South London’s Elliott School, a musical hotbed that also birthed Burial, half of Hot Chip, and the Mercury Prize-nominated jazz musician Emma Smith. When his partners went to university, Hebden adopted the Four Tet moniker and began trafficking in free jazz-tinted, hip-hop-grounded sampledelica on 1999’s “Dialogue,” seemingly an abrupt turn to outsiders, but understandable considering he lists the Gravediggaz’s “6 Feet Deep” among his most seminal influences. 2001’s excellent “Pause” found every bleary-eyed hack with a laptop branding him “folktronica,” an albatross he subsequently and artfully eluded with forays into the world of remixing (tweaking everyone from Andrew Bird to MF Doom), improvised jams with legendary drummer Steve Reid, and an increasing dance music bent, incorporating everything from techno, European library music, and dubstep (as evidenced on last year’s “Moth/Wolf Cub” split with Burial).
His new album “There Is Love in You,” released last month, might be his most towering achievement yet, a singular work that both splinters the notion of genre and consolidates the far-flung experimentation that characterized his previous output. Known for esoteric samples spanning stray voices to rubber ducks, Hebden created an instant classic out of everything from an infant’s heartbeat to a child playing a toy piano to a gorgeous constellation of chopped-up vocal samples -- all of them sutured to entrancing four on the floor beats. In advance of his show at the Echoplex on Saturday night, Hebden spoke to Pop & Hiss about his aversion to genre boundaries, his love of hip-hop, and the possible closure of his old haunt, London’s Plastic People nightclub.
Much of "There Is Love in You," was live-tested at London's famed Plastic People nightclub, where you recently held a DJ residency. Last week, the news broke that it's in danger of being closed down due to concerns about drug use and excessive noise complaints. How have you been reacting to that news?
I’ve been hearing about it while I’ve been away on the road, but it sounds really terrible. It's one of those situations where the police seem to have really targeted it. After all, it's just another club on a major stretch in London where there’s hundreds of nightclubs right next to each other. I’ve got a feeling that of all the clubs in the area, it’s the least full of bad behavior. It’s been a very inspiring and influential place for many many people in London. Hopefully, it'll be able to keep going.