On Four Tet and Caribou’s Accidental Dance Music

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Every week or thereabouts, Mutant Dance Moves takes you to the shadowy corners of the dancefloor and the fringes of contemporary electronic music, where new strains and dance moves are evolving.

In the wake of Radiohead’s Kid A, the indie world finally began to embrace its inner-electronica, so that by 2003, artists as diverse as Ellen Alien, Junior Senior, and the Postal Service began to crop up on year-end lists. But three producers that year made fine album statements that hinted at where indie electronic music might go next. Former Fridge drummer Kieran Hebden released his third solo album as Four Tet, the jazz-inflected idyllictronica Rounds. Producer Scott Herren released a spliced’n’diced take on downtempo hip-hop called One World Extinguisher under his Prefuse 73 moniker. And another drummer, Canada’s Dan Snaith, released the psychedelic powerbook pop of Up in Flames under the name of Manitoba. (Soon after, he’d be forced to change his name to Caribou.) At Pitchfork, these albums ranked respectively at #15, #6, and #5, while over at website Brainwashed, their readers’ poll ranked them similarly, with Four Tet at #13, Prefuse 73 at #11, and Caribou at #6.

A few years on, while Herren’s profile has greatly diminished in value (at the time, Extinguisher felt vastly overrated, which time has proved to be correct), Four Tet and Caribou remain vital electronic music makers into this new decade, even making inroads into the dance world. When the highly-influential Resident Advisor website listed their top electronic albums of 2010, Four Tet’s There is Love in You slotted in at #7 while Caribou’s Swim ranked at #1.

Four Tet and Caribou are mentioned here because, rather than simply rest on their laurels and take a break, they continued to heighten and broaden their dance music profiles in the past year (and more), far beyond the PR push of their indie world album releases. Kieran Hebden was especially busy in 2011 and into the new year. While his own label Text had intermittently released singles since 2001, they dropped a black label single “Ego/ Mirror” which was a much-hyped collaboration between Hebden, mysterious dubstep producer Burial and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. Selling out within a day, it was soon followed by another Hebden single, “Locked/Pyramid.” And just this past week, he gave us a taste of “Nova,” his next collaborative single with Burial. All of these tracks revealed a much harder Four Tet sound, streamlined yet powerful, perfect for an adventurous DJ set.

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