Review: The Melodious Sparkling Electronica Of Four Tet’s ‘Sixteen Oceans’

Four Tet | Sixteen Oceans | Text Records

Release Date: 13 March, 2020

For UK musician and producer Kieran Hebden, his extensive (two decades worth) of work under his moniker Four Tet has turned the artist into a leading figure in the electronic music industry. With his experimental, playful approach to genre – delving into the world of club-ready cuts, sunny synth-pop and emotive ambience – he’s established himself as a favourite amongst all fans of electronic music, regardless of their preferences in specific sub-genres – along with his broad collaborative efforts and mixes – probably needs no further introduction.

Sixteen Oceans’ stands as Hebden’s tenth studio album, a highly awaited offering since the release of the first glittery, saccharine single ‘Teenage Birdsong’ in 2019 and his following second single – an intimate collaboration with vocalist Ellie Goulding on ‘Baby’. The album captures Four Tet’s personality in each track with the final whole still showcasing a stunning example of the artists ability to experiment. 

The candy-coated, jovial energy of ‘School‘ twinkles as miasmic honey; as the album opener, the track serves as charming introduction to ‘Sixteen Oceans‘ – the tenderness of the buoyant rhythmic greeting segueing effortlessly into a genuinely endearing melody atop the beat. The rich, sparkling aura gleams with a nostalgic feeling of youth; a melodious dance kaleidoscopic with its use of colour, bright and luminous yet with a delicacy that gently stirs the heart. The playful, spirited beat glimmers with a feel reminiscent of an energetic house cut; with the companionship of the soft-hearted, effervescent electronics, ‘School‘ sparkles with radiant synthesizer sunbeams.

When listening to ‘Love Salad‘ – ‘Sixteen Oceans‘ album art immediately springs to mind; a perfect visual accompaniment to the innovative composition in its blend of minimalism and scintillating hues of prismatic electronics, with sporadic hints of climatic dancefloor synths peering through the more airy, ambient atmosphere. The provocative use of modest, intriguing textures in opening beat that steadily progresses throughout the track embraces an earthly, organic feel – a nourishing, natural glow in the repetitive percussive elements. Hebden’s emotive, lyrical approach to melody shimmers amongst the straightforward beat; the layers of timbre pleasant with a crystalline tangibility – flowing kindly a translucent stream as the sprightly synths rise and fall.

The sweet and sunny disposition of ‘Something In Sadness‘ may seem contradicting to the tracks title – and while still cradling an intimate feeling of introspection, the dulcet electronics are sensitive and hopeful; as if reminiscing on a time that while difficult and complex, in hindsight contributes to a new, insightful clarity – a pure and loving feeling of acceptance. Hebden’s ability to structure soundscapes with such intricate harmony is a defining feature of ‘Sixteen Oceans’, and ‘Something In Sadness‘ showcases the producers knack for creating detailed and immersive soundscapes. Euphonious electronics glitter with a golden incandescence – a sunlit warmth illuminating the emotional nature of the track.

The sugar-coated electronica and tender ambience of ‘Sixteen Oceans‘ is a refreshing offering from Four Tet, the rosy luminosity of Hebden’s approach differing from more recent previous releases – yet gleaming with his distinct auditory personality. Engulfed with a sunlit melodies and shimmering harmonies, ‘Sixteen Oceans‘ is a pleasure dive into.

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Rating: 8 / 10

Feature Image: Four Tet / Press Photo