Rounds (album)

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Studio album by Four Tet
Released 5 May 2003 (UK)
6 May 2003 (US)
Genre Electronica, downtempo, experimental
Length 45:22
Label Domino Records
WIG126 (UK) / DNO014 (US)
Producer Kieran Hebden
Four Tet chronology
Hella/Four Tet Split

Rounds is the third full length album by British electronic musician Four Tet, released on 5 May 2003 by Domino Recording Company.


After being a member of Fridge since 1995, Kieran Hebden began releasing solo records under the name Four Tet in 1998. His first release was the "Thirtysixtwentyfive" single, which was then followed by the full length albums Dialogue (1999) and Pause (2001). These records were heavily influenced by hip-hop, jazz and electronic music.

Composition and recording[edit]

Hebden felt that his recorded output had so far sounded too much like a product of his musical influences[1] and wanted to try and make a record that was more personal and unique.[2] He started to think about creating music that would be harder to define and without direct reference to its influences.[3] After spending the early part of his career titling songs with arbitrary names, Hebden decided to label his new songs with more personal titles.[4]

Hebden cites Pete Rock, DJ Premier,[5] Jim O'Rourke's I'm Happy and I'm Singing and a 1, 2, 3, 4, Timbaland, the Neptunes and Rodney Jerkins' work on Whitney Houston's "It's Not Right but It's Okay" and Brandy and Monica's "The Boy Is Mine" as major influences on Rounds.[2]

With the exception of a guitar part that Hebden recorded for "Slow Jam", the music for the album was composed exclusively from samples.[4] Hebden worked from a file of samples that he had assembled over many years.[2] The album contains between 200[6] and 300[4] samples, with each song being built from between 20 and 30 samples. The song "Unspoken" was originally based around a sample from the Tori Amos song "Winter", but Amos's record company refused sample clearance and Hebden reworked the song ahead of the release of Rounds.[7]

Rounds was recorded by Hebden in his flat in North London, using a desktop computer and a home hi-fi system.[2] The samples used on the album were heavily processed[5] using AudioMulch and Cool Edit Pro,[3] in many cases beyond recognition of the source material.[2] Hebden also used a Creative Labs microphone to record the guitar part for "Slow Jam"[1] and some sounds from television before sequencing the results in Cakewalk Pro Audio 9.[3]


Two singles were released from the album - "She Moves She" which featured a sample from "The Neptune Collection" by The Entourage Music and Theater Ensemble and "As Serious as Your Life", as well as one EP, My Angel Rocks Back and Forth. The latter features remixes of the title track by Isambard Khroustaliov and electronica duo Icarus, two new Four Tet tracks, and a DVD of all of Four Tet's music videos for Pause and Rounds.

A promotional version of the album was issued in March 2003. The only track different from the version on the final release is "Unspoken",[8] which originally featured an alternate piano melody sampled from the Tori Amos song "Winter". Because Amos' record company refused to clear the sample, a new melody was improvised for the official release of Rounds.[9]

Rounds was reissued by Domino in 2013 with a bonus CD of live material.[10]


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 89/100[11]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[12]
Dusted favourable[13]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[14]
NME (9/10)[15]
Pitchfork Media (8.9/10)[16]
PopMatters favourable[17]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars 15 May 2003
Spin A-[18]
Stylus Magazine B+[19]
The Village Voice A− [20]

Upon its release, Rounds received critical acclaim. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews and ratings from mainstream critics, the album has received a metascore of 89, based on 26 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim."[11] It is ranked at number four on the Metacritic list of highest scoring albums of 2003.[21]

AllMusic reviewer John Bush awarded the album four-and-a-half stars out of five and stated that "though Rounds is experimental by nature" it is a record that "offers something for nearly every audience that could approach it."[12] In his five star review for the Guardian, David Peschek described the album as a "trove of bewitching melody and subtle invention" and said that "Rounds succeeds not only as a meticulously conceived piece of art but also as a moving expression of human warmth."[14] Writing for the NME, Tony Naylor described the album as "extraordinary", "essential" and "full of remarkable sonic ideas," scoring it nine out of ten.[15] Reviewer Andy Beta, writing for Pitchfork Media, praised the record's "internal order" which he noted "allows it to stand out against previous laptop explorations of immense record collections".[16]

PopMatters favourable review of the album, written by Adrien Begrand, offered that Rounds is "a remarkable record" and that "sublime, computer-crafted recordings like Rounds provides in spades are making the most exciting sounds right now in 2003."[17] Describing the album as a "varied trip" and noting "a darker vibe suggesting the influence of Hebden's labelmate Dan Snaith of Manitoba," Spin's Will Hermes rated the album A-.[18] Stylus Magazine writer Nick Southall recognised Hebden's "perpetual evolution and motion" and ranked the album as B+, declaring that "Rounds is great."[19] Robert Christgau's review of Rounds for the Village Voice suggested that Hebden "imagines an aural space in which electronic malfunction is cute rather than annoying or ominous," using "the computer as music box" and awarded an A- rating.[20]

Pitchfork Media placed Rounds at number 123 on their list of top 200 albums of the 2000s.[22]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Kieran Hebden

No. Title Length
1. "Hands"   5:40
2. "She Moves She"   4:38
3. "First Thing"   1:12
4. "My Angel Rocks Back and Forth"   5:06
5. "Spirit Fingers"   3:21
6. "Unspoken"   9:29
7. "Chia"   0:31
8. "As Serious as Your Life"   4:36
9. "And They All Look Broken Hearted"   5:06
10. "Slow Jam"   5:16


  1. ^ a b Joyce, Colin (7 May 2013). "Making the 'Rounds': Four Tet Looks Back at His Masterpiece | SPIN | Q & A". Spin. Spin Media. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Vozick-Levinson, Simon (14 May 2013). "Four Tet Looks Back on 'Rounds' | Music News | Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Jann Wenner. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Inglis, Sam (July 2003). "Four Tet". Sound on Sound. SOS Publications Group. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Beta, Andy (13 May 2013). "Interviews: Four Tet | Features | Pitchfork". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Pollard, Vincent (May 2013). "Four Tet (Page 2) • Interviews •". Exclaim!. Ian Danzig. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  6. ^ Pollard, Vincent (May 2013). "Four Tet • Interviews •". Exclaim!. Ian Danzig. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Breihan, Tom (14 May 2013). "Hear The Original, Tori Amos-Sampling Version Of Four Tet’s "Unspoken"". Stereogum. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  8. ^ "Four Tet: Discog". Retrieved 10 July 2007. 
  9. ^ "The Conjurer". The Age. Fairfax Digital. 11 June 2004. Retrieved 29 October 2007. 
  10. ^ Carrie Battan; Laura Snapes (15 February 2013). "Four Tet Announces Tenth Anniversary Edition of Rounds | News | Pitchfork". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  11. ^ a b "Critic Reviews for Rounds - Metacritic". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Bush, John. "Rounds - Four Tet". Allmusic. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  13. ^ Crumsho, Michael (15 May 2003). "Dusted Reviews: Four Tet - Rounds". Dusted magazine. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Peschek, David (2 May 2003). "CD: Four Tet: Rounds | Music | The Guardian". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Naylor, Tony (30 May 2003). "Four Tet : Rounds". NME. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Beta, Andy (24 May 2013). "Four Tet: Rounds". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  17. ^ a b Begrand, Adrien (3 June 2003). "Four Tet: Rounds | PopMatters". PopMatters. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  18. ^ a b Hermes, Will (August 2003). Four Tet - Rounds (Domino). SPIN Media LLC. p. 118. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Southall, Nick (1 September 2003). "Four Tet - Rounds - Review - Stylus Magazine". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (27 January 2004). "Parts of the Elephunk - Page 1 - Music - New York - Village Voice". The Village Voice. Josh Fromson. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  21. ^ "Best Albums of 2003". Metacritic. CNET. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  22. ^ Pitchfork staff (28 September 2009). "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 200-151". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 1 October 2009. 

External links[edit]