Thursday, January 15, 2004


Four Tet

There’s a scene in High Fidelity in which John Cusack is being harassed by Jack Black and Black in all his hilarity is wearing a Yanni "Live at the Acropolis" T-shirt; this is the perfect example of making an ironic statement for irony’s sake. While some vintage T-shirts could potentially have an air of sincerity about them, no true music aficionado was ever an authentic Yanni fan. Granted the naivete of youth brings us to some pretty strange places (can you say "the Yes boxed set"?) but they never took us to the longhaired conductor of dentist and elevator music unless, of course, we were in an elevator or a dentist office.

But what makes Yanni so bad, so horrendously offensive that I’m certain Satan has him on speed dial? Truthfully, I really don’t remember and I am not planning a refresher course any time soon because I lack the sadomasochistic quality of self-imposed torture. But if I recall his oeuvre at all, his intentions were actually noble and valiant (sure. You can read that sentence again if you’d like). See, as fermented as Yanni’s cheese could get, he never imposed his lyrics or his deep thoughts upon us. His instrumental albums were vehicles of escape, an audio vacation to a desert landscape, a tropical island or once again, a visit to the dentist office. There was no mention of heartache, heartbreak, girls, pain, or hey ya’s. His music was a mood catalyst, an opportunity to get lost in your own thoughts and pensiveness. Yanni basically said, here is the soundtrack to your mind. Now use it while I go curl my mustache.

That being said, there are those—besides middle aged housewives—who also need to escape the heaviness of imposing lyrics. The mind needs to formulate its own imagery without the confines of a tortured songwriter’s prose. When that occasion does arise, is the "Running On Empty" soundtrack your only option? Thankfully, no, because Four Tet is your Yanni (who’s yo’ Yanni? Four Tet’s yo’ Yanni!). Like our maned man, Kieran Hebden, the man behind Four Tet, creates music for the imagination. Unlike Yanni, though, Hebden succeeds and inspires the lifelight of your otherwise unused soul, without sounding like a stack of Muenster and it’s unavoidable expiration date. His ten electronic soundscapes are all sublime voyages and restful odysseys into destinations with diamond clouds, unicorn waiters and strawberry water. The sixth song, "Unspoken," sounds like apologies, pajamas, car headlights, the pitter-patter of the rain, the exhausted sighs of a loved one. The last song, "Slow Jam" conjures up images of a mobile hovering above a baby’s crib, the wind blowing on your neck, car keys jingling, leaves, a burning scented candle and so forth. Rounds is an hour’s long journey through free-form association. And to think; if there had been actual lyrics, then none of that would have been possible.


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