Born on the forefront of the 90’s, I think I can safely say what does and does not sound like music from that decade. You got your beasties, your pumpkins – even some cranberries if you’re into that. So, like most listeners, I had to change my pants after I started playing a 45-minute track Kieran Hebden uploaded to Four Tet’s soundcloud a few days back. All that accompanied the track was one line of text, “Produced by Kieran Hebden 1997-2001. Compiled 2012.” For those not familiar with Four Tet’s output, this spans a period before he even released any music under this moniker.
Hebden’s style has changed at almost every point in his career, but an arc can be seen moving from jazzy sample-based headphone tunes to complex, intelligent dance music, emphasizing the “dance” aspect the genre usually only holds as a backdrop. As someone who prefers his former work but still adores the latter, this was a welcome change of pace.
Compiled like a mix rather than an album, 0181 seamlessly moves between every style Hebden has dipped his pen into over the past decade-or-so. The first sequence demonstrates this perfectly. The track opens with delay-saturated piano melodies before layers of static and noise prepare the way for a garagey dance beat that could easily have found its way onto 2012’s Pink. Elsewhere on the album, we find many sounds and tones now indistinguishable from Hebden’s work – rough, off-kilter hip hop beats adorned with pitch-shifted string plucks, reversed melodies. Do I wish it was separated into tracks rather than put out like a mix? Yeah but like, whatever man, it’s a free download.
Much of this work explains the transition between Hebden’s old band, Fridge, and Four Tet’s earliest material. It’s a lost chapter in his story, one that listeners may find easy to understand why it was kept under wraps for over a decade. The face of music has changed more between this album’s composition and release than perhaps any other time period. To make a piece like this that, in 1997, could have elevated himself to Mobyish levels, and then decide to sit on it? Sounds insane. Yet, now we are treated to a truly beautiful work fossilized in amber. Or maybe it was Nickelodeon Gak. Either way, it tastes great.