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Four Tet - Live at Alexandra Palace London, 8th and 9th May 2019 Music Album Reviews

Kieran Hebden’s new live album reminds us that he is a stellar performer, not just a producer.
The British producer Kieran Hebden has one of the most distinctive signatures in electronic music. First, a gravelly drum machine; then, some jewel-toned synth pads; and, finally, a strip of harp or chimes or wordless cooing, unspooling like wrinkled ribbon.

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Wilson Tanner - II Music Album Reviews

The latest from the Melbourne electronic duo is a dawdler’s paradise, a daydream mapped to MIDI.

For their debut album, Melbourne’s Andrew Wilson and John Tanner came up with a relatively simple proposition: What if Balearic music—a catch-all style with ambient undertones popularized in Ibiza in the 1980s—were transplanted to the Southern Hemisphere? Claiming to have recorded their album on the West Coast of Australia, where the Swan River meets the Indian Ocean, the two musicians dove into Balearic’s deepest pools, where aquamarine strains of ambient music swirled with new age at its most beatific. Limpid synthesizers, nylon-stringed acoustic guitar, and the occasional keening clarinet solo pooled together as effortlessly as the ice melting in a Campari glass.


As Andras Fox, Wilson had previously been known for Larry Heard-inspired deep house, while Tanner’s Eleventeen Eston project had put a lo-fi spin on big-budget 1980s pop, sounding like he’d dug up a sun-baked cassette of Tears for Fears’ demo instrumentals. But as Wilson Tanner, they achieved a newfound purity. On II, they continue with their debut album’s line of investigation but add a twist to the thought experiment: What if a cold front descended upon their Antipodean paradise?

The elements of II have not much changed—their synthesizers remain fluid, their tempos bob pleasantly along, and the maritime conceit is borne out in the sound of actual waves against the prow. (The two say they wrote and recorded the new album aboard a 1950s riverboat in Melbourne’s Port Philipp Bay, utilizing “a resourceful array of weatherproof electronic instruments and a long extension lead,” which, sure!) It’s a dawdler’s paradise, a daydream mapped to MIDI. A few songs could have worked just as well on the duo’s debut: The faux-flute melody of “Loch and Key” sways lazily; “All Hands Bury the Dead” sinks into a mind-clearing keyboard refrain that’s accompanied by the sounds of birdcalls and splashing oars.

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But there’s a noticeable chill in the air. “Perishable” wraps up melancholy flute and guitar in tendrils of analog delay, suggesting a kind of dubbed-out death folk.“Killcord Pts I-III” fires up churning arpeggios, drizzles in dissolving marimbas, and stews in its own juices for 12 uneasy minutes. The darkest and most adventurous of all is “Idle,” where acid-like bass tones bubble and squelch against lurching electronic rhythms and an almost inaudible layer of feedback. It’s not far from something that Aphex Twin might have put out on his label Rephlex in the early 1990s, and it makes for a provocative new dimension to the duo’s sound. After all, with sea levels rising and coastlines disappearing, blissful drifting only gets you so far.


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