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DVD/CD Review: Four Tet – Everything Ecstatic (Films & Part 2)

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Four Tet (a.k.a. Kieran Hebden) released his first DVD a couple years ago. It was a “bonus disc” of four videos included with a CD single of remixes… one video was hilarious, one was a bore, and two were hauntingly nightmarish and disturbing. Now, the tables have been turned: The DVD is the main attraction here, while the CD is a lowly “bonus disc.” A sign of the times, it seems.

This DVD seems to promise “films” of the entire Everything Ecstatic album. The tracks are in the same order as on the CD of the same name with the exception of moving “and then patterns” to the end. Why the change? Because “and then patterns” is playing during the DVD end credits sequence. I’m sorry, Kieran – that doesn’t count as a “film.” I mean really…

Otherwise, the actual “films”/videos/whatever are a very mixed bag. The first one, “a joy,” is not – lots of jittery abstract patterns, shapes, and colors in rapid-fire sequences that bring to mind those Japanese cartoons that supposedly induce seizures. “Smile around the face” starts to grow on you as you follow a constant head-shot of the protagonist walking through the city, having a rough ride on the bus, and then playing with cute kids (earning bonus points with me for putting a smiley face sticker on the guy’s forehead) … but just when you think you’ve arrived at a happy ending of sorts, it’s ruined by (what I’m assuming is) a watery suicide scene tacked on for no apparent reason … bah.

Elsewhere, you’ll encounter artsy camera shots strung together seemingly at random, some rather cool animated sloppy calligraphy, a drop of CGI water taking a Matrix-style journey, creepy drugged-out young hipsters who each somehow end up with an extra pair of eyes, and an incredibly strange and grotesque sequence involving a guy in a panda suit, a head on a pole, and people in insect costumes. It’s a big relief when “you were there with me” finally arrives at the end – a refreshingly human and oddly touching atmospheric video love letter. (At least I think that’s what it is…?)

Speaking of love, it’s awfully sweet of Four Tet to throw in the Part 2 CD since you’ve basically bought the same Everything Ecstatic album twice here (just to get these marginal videos – there’s not even a fancy 5.1 Dobly Surround audio mix on the DVD or anything…)

These tracks are obviously leftovers, afterthoughts, and throwaways… essentially about 35 minutes of filler from the Everything Ecstatic sessions (or do electronic musicians actually have “sessions?”) There’s something called “this is six minutes” that is in fact exactly six minutes long, and then there’s “ending” which is indeed at the end of the CD. Most of this stuff is of the rather abrasive I.D.M./glitch/electro-noise-collage variety, with lots of vintage video arcade soundeffects, fuzzy static, and chaotic digital grime cluttering up the mix. Every so often a backbeat will kick in or a lovely loop will emerge, but it’s all eventually engulfed in the sonic stew again with no hope of escape. Bottom line: you won’t listen to this CD more than one or two times.

If you’re a completist fan of Four Tet’s often fascinating and brilliant “organic electronica” (like I am) you’ll want this DVD/CD set no matter what I or anyone else says about it. It will sit idly on the shelf most of the time, but you’ll still be glad it exists (just like that other remix CD single/DVD mentioned earlier).

If you’re curious about Four Tet and wondering where to start, take my advice and just listen to Pause and Rounds and the plain old CD version of Everything Ecstatic – the music itself will evoke imagery in your mind far more interesting and creative than anything you’ll see on this DVD. Then, after you’ve also become a completist fan (don’t forget the Late Night Tales compilation), go ahead and check out the giant panda video and so forth.

[From serenade in green.]

serenade in green

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  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    This story has been chosen as an Editors’ Pick of the Week. You now have the grave yet giddy honor of selecting a story for next week’s best of column if you like (time frame 2/1 – 2/7). Simply leave the title, URL, and a brief description of why you dig it on this week’s post (link above).

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