I’m a little bit late on writing this review. In fact, I told my editor I’d turn it in two and half weeks ago. I’ve been pretty busy with work and other “activities” lately, but I honestly did try to write this piece on several different occasions. And each failed attempt began with earnest — I sat down in a comfortable chair, put on my Music Critic hat (the green one with stitching), and tried to harness that illusive, psychologist-like ethos that really gets inside an album and combs through its most obscure and hidden influences. I’m far from earning my Ph.D, but I’d say this is a pretty sound strategy for reviewing an album — except in this case. Maybe my chair was too comfortable, but whenever I got a couple tracks into Pink, any desire to be productive and write an album review simply melted away. I got lost in the endless cycles of percussion and completely hypnotized by the spunky samples; most of which will flip the mood of the song without ever feeling unwelcome.
To be clear, Pink‘s knack for enveloping my consciousness and curbing my motivations is a compliment — I imagine many albums aim for a similar effect, but few pull off such an immersive, addicting, and just plain dope experience from start to finish. Pink would be the sixth studio album by Four Tet, but it’s really more of a collection of singles. Of the eight tracks, only “Lion” and “Peace for Earth” weren’t previously released as 12-inches. Thankfully, the formation of the disc turns out to be anecdotal rather than indicative of the album’s overall coherence. After 2010′s stellar There Is Love In You, Four Tet has been putting his hand on a few different collaborations, including last year’s incredible “Ego / Mirror” 12-inch with Burial and Thom Yorke. Sonically, the deep, pounding bass from that single differentiates the work from Pink‘s selection, which is mostly driven by crisp drum breaks that oscillate between programmed and organic sounds.
The album opens (ironically?) with “Locked,” a song that builds tension with a short, half-second synth loop that comes in at the 1:28 mark and lingers for thirty seconds before unfolding into a melody that feels beautifully rich in sprawling in comparison. Four Tet is a master of understanding the momentum of a song: he delicately and carefully drops in just the right sound whenever a track begins to lose its breath. On “Locked,” that sound is an exotic wind loop that perfectly suits the tribal drums and recalls early Bonobo albums. On “128 Harps,” the special sauce is a simple “yep” vocal sample that’s repeated so furiously I’m honestly shocked I find it appealing. The vocal distortion blossoms in the next track, “Pyramid,” where instead of just one word, an entire phrase (“I remember how you walked away“) gets forcefully implanted into the groove — to the extent that the words remain intact phonetically but almost lose their English meaning.
For the Western world, pink is instantly discernible from red, and not because of large gap between the two on the color spectrum, but because of the distinct cultural analogies that exist for the two shades. Four Tet’s music toes the line between IDM and downtempo. While the two subgenres seemingly exist on different musical islands, is this a result of two drastically different sounds, or a cultural expectation for where, with whom, and how these genres should be experienced? Whichever the case may be, Four Tet rises above all expectations on “Jupiters,” whose two-ton bassline magically congeals with lighter-than-air synths and hollow percussion. The song could easily thrive within both a dance club and the comfortable confines of a lounge — a consistent theme for Pink, and although the ideal setting may be ambiguous, the incredibly high quality of the work is anything but.
Stream: Four Tet – “Jupiters”