Four Tet review
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Four Tet review

Jun 03, 2023

Alexandra Palace, LondonIn collaboration with lighting artists Squidsoup, Hebden has found a way to make his wistful dance music seem thrillingly tangible

Four Tet's shows have never had such a clash of audiences. Some know Kieran Hebden as the grandfather of a certain introspective strain of UK club music; others know him as part of a trio – alongside Britain's new UK bass royalty Fred Again and dubstep antagonist turned man-bun enthusiast Skrillex – who headlined this year's Coachella after subbing in last-minute for Frank Ocean. As such, the audience tonight is loaded with uni students keen to see Fred Again and Skrillex, and fortysomethings wanting to hear Rounds. It's the latter who get their wish.

Far from the main-stage antics of Coachella, Four Tet's latest concert in collaboration with lighting artists Squidsoup shows he is still in the business of creating sincere and disarming electronic experiences. A matrix of coloured lights hangs from the ceiling and surrounds the crowd. Young and old, excitement swells from the audience as they swarm in and out of the setup.

Four Tet's music is special for the way it conjures shades of tranquillity, wistfulness and healing through woodwind and plucked instrumentation that is draped over house, downtempo and garage tempos to give club music a spiritual dimension. Tracks often begin with a drum loop until a familiar chime jumps in. On Baby, chopped-up vocals from Ellie Goulding swim through a watery ambience. Mango Feedback is like a gamelan-garage jig to which Hebden adds a five-minute noise section that sounds like being beside the Large Hadron Collider at full pelt, before cutting back to the original track like nothing happened.

Hebden's Squidsoup shows are a rare opportunity to not only hear and feel but see music. Inside the light matrix, sounds swoop above you, swirl around you like incense smoke and crawl through you like a spectral creature, all through these complex 3D light patterns. When he pulls the pin on Kool FM, the lights match the track's intermittent jungle outbursts with flashes that accelerate through you. Outside the lights, it's still an incredible sound display. But inside, you connect with the music in a very tangible and – with Hebden playing in the round – communal way.

There are split ends in this otherwise well-groomed set; it concludes with a few too many dead stops after single tracks, making the encore feel like purgatory. Still, amid this one-of-a-kind experience, you’re glad when he starts up once again.

Alexandra Palace, London