Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet has a new album. It has two tracks – Side 1 is called Morning and Side 2 Evening. Although Hebden is an electronic musician, on Side 1 he has added samples of Indian Playback singer, Lata Mangeshkar singing Main Teri Chhoti Behana Hoon from the 1983 film Souten and rather than sounding like found audio samples added to a laptop soundtrack, it sounds more like a collaboration. Around 9 minutes it becomes more of a sonic and rhythmic experiment before Mangeshkar returns with her seductive voice and intoxicating melodies, coming and going like a lost turquoise veil rising on the wind in India and floating down over Dusseldorf .
It’s music for the afternoons rather than the morning as the beat accelerates to the rhythm of Kraftwerk’s first train set or rather it’s Morning (Mangeshkar) meets Afternoon (Hebden) disparate cultures attempting a union and awkwardly smiling at each other as they celebrate the meeting itself as the goal. Whether Mangeshkar heard this idea and approved it’s execution or the sample was simply procured for a fee would be interesting to know but I’d also like to hear them make a record together as people rather than bytes, although that really isn’t Hebden’s thing.
Evening side is as much a journey into the space age as a contemporary electronic soundtrack, that is a carefully constructed experiment that borrows from the past to create the future using dynamics, sounds and atmospheres. It’s evocative, it floods your mind with images and on Side 2 it stays with the ancient Indian traditions of song, this time sliding in an out of the electronics like gulab jamun over wire. Whether the Indian voice on Evening side is Mangeshkar is unknown but I keep expecting Steve Coe’s more straightforward East meets West Indian Pop with Sheila Chandra singing, more because of the sonic aspect than anything else – it has that same thick analog sound that all the best electronic records have inherited from the past (mainly from the Germans). But Hebden isn’t adhering to any predictable structure, it has the rising and the falling, the cyclical and the repetitive but he stays clear of anything that might be recognised as a song – it’s more an experience.
I’m not sure how other people listen to music like this, but I imagine it’s whilst moving across the city or whilst on their computer, pottering or entertaining guests. I would suggest that this record would be most enjoyed by switching off the light and the phone, lying down and listening, just enjoying the sound and sharing in the art that Hebden has made for you. Listen to it like we used to listen to the records in the seventies, cover in hand or by your side, listen to it like you’d listen to Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream and when the rhythms come, a slight movement of your toe in stocking feet will suffice. Go on a journey by staying in as the final beats of Evening side have you twitching your way back to reality after your immersion in the giant cauldron of planet Four Tet’s warm nod to Hebdon’s heroes as he attempts to glue the past to the future.