Four Tet — Late Night Tales

The avalanche of choice music available this month continues with new contributions to two long-standing mixtape series. First up is Kieran Hebden’sLate Night Tales (audio samples via Azuli). Anyone who has been listening closely won’t be surprised to learn that Hebden’s taste in jazz, folk and hip-hop strays pretty far from the mainstream of each of those genres. This collection begins eclectic and doesn’t really let up.

One of the advantages of the Late Night Tales series is that artists can put together a fairly unfiltered portrait of their influences. No doubt there’s always a little ego-stroking: the temptation to demonstrate how extensive, refined or varied is their record collection. But in general the idea works: the listener gets an accessible and fairly inexpensive sampler of music somewhat like the artist in question. Buyers of Jamiroquai’s contribution to the series get a mix of Johnny Hammond, Ramsey Lewis and Sister Sledge — exactly the kind of thing most casual fans wouldn’t otherwise hear.

And there’s usually at least one hard-to-find gem otherwise unavailable without some expensive and time-consuming crate-digging.

This kind of thing works especially well for popularizers and updaters like Jamiroquai, but for an genuinely original artist like Four Tet, it risks highlighting how much greater is what an artist makes of their influences than is the sum of the parts.

There are some wonderful highlights here, and if it boosts sales of Max Roach and Joe Henderson records even slightly, it will be a job well done. It is also plain to see from what sources Hebden draws his intricate studies of noise and space and repetition. But since most post-hard-bop jazz fans are not also Fairport Convention fans, and most Manfred Mann fans are not also Prince Paul fans, there’s a fairly high chance that there will be something here that you won’t enjoy. At all.

On the other hand, there’s Four Tet’s hypnotic dismantling of Hendrix’s “Castles Made Of Sand”, and Four Tet-esque tracks by Icarus and fellow-traveller Manitoba. David Shrigley’s hilarious “Dont’s” (‘There is no such thing as a metal frisbee’) is probably worth the asking price on its own.

“Castles Made Of Sand” is also available as a 7”, and there’s a stream online (thanks to Disquiet).

Hebden seems to come out with an album almost exactly every two years, so we’ve got a little while to wait yet. The single of “My Angel Rocks Back And Forth”, coupled with a DVD of all the Four Tet videos to date, came out on Domino a while ago.

There are also some mp3s currently available for download, including a no-sound-left-unexplored 23-minute life rendition of “As Serious As Your Life”. It may partly make up for the fact that you — like everybody I know — missed out on the limited edition Copenhagen concert release.

What we’re really missing, of course, is a collection of Four Tet remixes.

Four Tet, LateNightTales

(Azuli, 2004)

Four Tet, My Angel Rocks Back And Forth

(Domino, 2004)