Four Tet - Sixteen Oceans: Review
Updated: Mar 27
In the midst of isolation and social distancing, Four Tet has released an album for us to sink into to make it all a little more bearable; Sixteen Oceans.
If there’s one word you can use to describe Four Tet as, it would have to be consistency.
Whilst being the type of artist who can maintain a specific type of ambience for two decades, it makes me wonder if I either want to hear something completely different that'll blow Four Tet out of the water or perhaps if I want them to continue giving us this satisfying sound that I know and love indefinitely. It’s a thought that has been teetering about my mind since their previous 2017 album New Energy, but there is genuinely something spectacular how Four Tet can captivate a feeling that just makes you never want it to change. With frequent moments of tranquillity and sublime beauty, there’s a strong sense of security in Kieran Hebden’s work even if however there is a smidge of repetitiveness.
As for Sixteen Oceans, the album almost appears to be split into two halves with a couple interludes. Retaining this electronic experimental beat that we know so well to then complimenting it with a serene and naturalistic sounds towards the end. With a strong intro from 'School', it sets the tone for an energetic start and a push forward into deep and high tempo strobing hi-hats and magical looping twangs that make the track flourish with character. Similar to the dance floor jam 'SW9 9SL', it just makes you want to move with an elevated feeling that is very present.
Typical tropes for a Four Tet song are displayed such as flutes or harpsichords, bells or piano keys and used in conjunction with sounds of nature like birds tweeting or water flowing. Beneath it all, a muffled bassline or futuristic hums and whizzes such as in the Hip-Hop sounding 'Romantics' or celestial-infused 'Love Salad'.
There is a strong mix of high and low tempo throughout with tracks like 'Baby', a single featuring vocals from pop singer Elle Goulding, which has a minute-long pause in the middle with sounds of water droplets and birds chirping but then restarts with vigour again towards the end. It stands out alongside 'Insect Near Piha Beach' which brings together unexpected sounds that you wouldn't usually hear in an EDM track but still accommodates to it with an fast tempo that keeps progressing as the minutes go on. Resembling to 2019 track 'Anna Painting'.
Feeling almost warm and comforting, the album oozes with love and effort with samples and vocals that not only bring ambient drones but a familiarity that makes you nostalgic, and acts like a harbinger to that type of springtime sun that you can still feel on your skin even though it's still cold out. It sits with me as a sibling to New Energy rather than an album that wants to explore and move things in a different direction. Perhaps Hebden isn't just playing safe but instead slowly evolving cautiously since we'll always want to hear what he likes to do best.