Doug Fir Lounge - October 1, 2005
Live Review by Michael Byrne
It's hard to imagine even the biggest laptop geek not feeling at least a tinge of disappointment at the close of Four Tet's set. First, give him massive credit for following the manic energy of Jamie Lidell, who manages, somehow, to plug his entire body and voice into his equipment (more on that later). But Four Tet's Kieran Hebden is, naturally, a wizard behind the curtain, and we get the sense he's content with that, acknowledging the audience with only brief moments of eye contact or a slight gesture. Through most of the set he remained static, save for a head bob or sly smile, allowing the music to fully dominate.
Ultimately then, it shouldn't matter a bit whether or not he is turning the stage to splinters or laying still upon it. Hebden is a wizard of pure electronics, stirring up a complexity of digital sounds and homemade samples that it causes a math-class headbuzz to consider everything happening on the other side of those two laptop screens (a brief disclaimer: I am not a laptop geek). If that disappointment–from anyone–was anything more than a tinge, then someone wasn't paying attention. A combination of stage lighting and the natural hollows below Hebden's eyes give him a Dr. Frankenstein-like look and intensity, and that alone attracts our focus into his. His recorded pieces–mostly from Everything Ecstatic and Rounds–formed the spine of his set, but Hebden was obviously playing with the material: stealing beats, toying with frequencies, twisting melodies, adding breakdowns. We found the room draped in a sort of jagged ambience, the multiple drum kits of Everything Ecstatic being far in back or nonexistent. We got teased by IDM hooks, and we got punished by copper coated squeals.
Jamie Lidell, however, was nothing but smooth. In his voice he echoes Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding, yet somehow, as a heavily accented pasty Englishman it comes across as hardly ironic (for whatever that's worth in Portland, Oregon at the Doug Fir Lounge in a room packed with white uber-hipsters.) Irregardless, Lidell's act is genuine: the irony involved in singing like a sixties soulster is coming from elsewhere. Nor is that voice the center of his act: like Hebden, Jamie Lidell is a laptop kid, and that's where the second microphone comes in. Throughout the show, he's looping, cutting and pasting that voice, at one point chopping it up and mixing it into a beat (mostly b-boxed by him and looped), and at another taking the crowd and using us as a track. This would be enough, but Lidell's also twisting around the stage like it's getting high voltage surges from his computer's serial ports (at one point, he did remark his "computer's gone mad.")
In 1970 Detroit, this night might have looked like a crude version of "future music," contrived and awkwardly fused: a prisoner of imagination. Upon seeing its realization as the product of 35 years of music, it's terrifying and wonderful to think about what the product of the next 35 years will be. Provided the humanity behind it isn't hidden, we haven't anything to fear.
Kieran Hebden - Interview
Four Tet - There Is Love In You
More by this writer:
ADULT. - Interview
The Dead Science - Frost Giant
Xiu Xiu - Interview