Other than the highly unfortunate incident of a bunch of gear being stolen before embarking on the first ever Fridge U.S. tour, Kieran Hebden must be having a pretty darn good year. Along with his other aforementioned group releasing their first album (the amazing Happiness) simultaneously in both the United States and the rest of the world, as well as embarking on their first tour of the states, Hebden has crafted and released Pause, his second album under the name of Four Tet, and it's another excellent batch of tracks.
As usual, the 11 tracks on this release are comprised of both organic and electronic instruments, with sampled and real played parts of the tracks. There are acoustic guitars, horns, pianos, harpsichords, and all kinds of other little elements thrown in for good measure, and sometimes the electronic flourishes are so darn subtle that they're barely there. In fact, the album lives up to the press release description of "pastoral music," and some of it is so damn nice that it wouldn't be entirely out-of-place as a bedtime lullaby.
The opening track of "Glue Of The World" starts things off in a nice fashion and lets you know exactly what you're in for with a quiet, loping beat and some pretty acoustic guitar melodies that weave around one another and snake backwards at points in the track. After jangling around for an opening minute or so, "Twenty Times" locks into a plenty funky groove and tops looped guitar bits with just the right touch of brass. Clocking in at under 2 minutes, "Everything Is Alright" again takes some nice acoustic guitar bits and mixes them with a touch of piano over more kinetic live-drumming sounds for one of the most interesting tracks on the disc.
Basically, the disc is sort of an aural opiate. Although it does have a couple slightly more upbeat points (the second half of "You Could Ruin My Day" chugs right along, but never in a sinister way while "No More Mosquities" lurches along with a grubby beat and the vocal line of the track title over and over again), just about the time that you think things are going to take off and get a bit rowdy, it drops off to a more subdued feel.
In fact, you could take this release and pair it up with Boards Of Canada's In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country for a back-to-back hit of sunny, frolic-in-a-sunny-field goodness. "Parks" even mixes in a sample of kids playing over a very nice beat, something the duo of BOC have done a couple times in the past. By the time that you reach the ending track of "Hilarious Movie Of The 90's," the quiet echo of the chimes and fluttering rhythm mix with some gentle keyboard clicks for a track that stacks up against anything that I've heard this year in terms of beautiful serenity. So, while the album doesn't have any super highs, it also doesn't have anything even remotely close to a low. It's another excellent release from Hebden, and even after two releases with his fingerprints on them this year, I can't wait for more.