Rounds (album)

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Rounds
Studio album by Four Tet
Released 5 May 2003
Genre Electronica, downtempo, experimental
Length 45:22
Label Domino
Producer Kieran Hebden
Four Tet chronology
Paws
(2001)
Rounds
(2003)
Hella/Four Tet Split
(2004)
Singles from Rounds
  1. "She Moves She"
    Released: 31 March 2003
  2. "As Serious as Your Life"
    Released: 20 October 2003
  3. "My Angel Rocks Back and Forth"
    Released: 4 May 2004

Rounds is the third full-length solo album by British electronic musician Kieran Hebden, released under his alias Four Tet on 5 May 2003 by Domino Recording Company. Wanting to make a more personal record, Hebden recorded and produced the album in his North London flat over ten months using a desktop computer and a home hi-fi system. Its ten tracks feature elements of hip-hop, jazz and folk; apart from a guitar part recorded for "Slow Jam", the music is composed exclusively from between 200 and 300 samples, many processed beyond recognition.

Rounds produced two singles and one EP. Critics praised the album for its unique fusion of electronic and "organic" styles, and Metacritic lists it as the fourth best-reviewed album of 2003. Several publications included Rounds on "best albums of the decade" lists. In May 2013, on the tenth anniversary of its release, Domino reissued Rounds with a bonus disc including a 2004 live performance.

Background and recording[edit]

Kieran Hebden produced Rounds almost entirely from heavily processed samples.

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, followed by the full-length albums Dialogue in 1999[1] and Pause in 2001.[2] The albums were influenced by hip-hop, jazz and electronic music.[2] Hebden felt his output had sounded too much like his influences[3] and wanted to make a record that was more personal, unique,[4] and harder to define.[5] Hebden drew on influences from Pete Rock, DJ Premier,[6] Jim O'Rourke, Timbaland, the Neptunes and Rodney Jerkins.[4]

Hebden recorded Rounds over ten months in his North London flat, using a desktop computer and a home hi-fi system.[4] With the exception of a guitar part recorded for "Slow Jam", he composed the music exclusively from a file of samples he had assembled over several years.[7][4] The album uses between 200[6] and 300[7] samples; each song is built from between 20 and 30[3] samples heavily processed[6] with the software packages AudioMulch and Cool Edit Pro,[5] in many cases beyond recognition.[4] The nine-minute track "Unspoken" was originally based on a sample from the Tori Amos song "Winter" but was reworked when Hebden failed to get sample clearance.[8] Hebden also used a Creative Labs microphone to record the guitar part for "Slow Jam"[3] and some sounds from television and sequenced the results in Cakewalk Pro Audio 9.[5]

After spending the early part of his career naming his songs with random words, he decided to use more personal titles.[7] "As Serious as Your Life" takes its name from a 1977 Val Wilmer book about free jazz in New York City. Hebden was given a copy of the book by his father and said "I did hope that some kid would get interested and ask what the title was and then check out the book, so it's a bit like leaving little trails for people."[7] He was inspired to title the album Rounds after hearing that his sister had been singing a musical round, telling an interviewer: "It seemed totally relevant; a round is all about repetition and phasing, which is the essence of what I've been doing since I've been making music."[9]

Music[edit]

Rounds contains ten instrumental tracks with a total running time of 45 minutes, which Colin Joyce of Spin called a "folktronica tapestry."[3] Sound on Sound writer Sam Inglis said that the album was a "blend of fragile acoustic fragments, brutal beats and glitchy electronica";[5] The Age described it as "electronic music that sounds deceptively organic."[10] Guardian critic David Peschek, who noted the influence of hip-hop, R&B and folk music, wrote that "Rounds invents its own dizzying, unlikely genres."[11] John Bush of AllMusic found the album contained elements of electronic and experimental music combined with "a dreamy melodicism sure to endear it to indie pop fans."[12] Dusted critic Michael Crumsho noticed the influence of folk and jazz, writing that Hebden had "taken his earlier nods to other specific genres and turned them into something wholly his own." [13] PopMatters '​ Adrien Begrand noted how "Hebden shifts the focus from hip-hop beats, jazz influences, and far-reaching sonic adventurousness, to a more spare, focused sound" that contributed to Rounds '​ original sound.[14] Nick Southall, in his review for Stylus magazine, stated that "it is more of the same, but 'the same' for Four Tet is perpetual evolution and motion."[15]

"Unspoken" was named by several critics as the album's centrepiece;[10][13][15][16] Begrand described it as "virtuosic laptop music".[14] NME critic Tony Naylor thought that "As Serious as Your Life" was one of the album's more straightforward songs.[17] The album's closing track, "Slow Jam", which Pitchfork reviewer Andy Beta said "has that long goodbye of the best melancholy closers,"[18] was described by Begrand as a "warm, wide-eyed, watching-the-sun-rise song" that features chiming guitars and a sample of a child's squeaky toy.[14]

Release[edit]

The track "She Moves She" was released as a 12-inch single on 31 March 2003, with "Cradle" on the B-side.[19] Rounds was released on double vinyl and compact disc by Domino on 5 May 2003, spending one week on the UK Albums Chart at number 60. The second single, "As Serious as Your Life", was released in October 2003 on 7- and 12-inch formats featuring remixes and a 23-minute live version;[20] a second 12-inch of the same song, containing a remix by Jay Dee featuring rapping by Guilty Simpson, was released on 18 November 2003.[21] An EP, My Angel Rocks Back and Forth, was released in May 2004, containing Rounds tracks, two remixes, and the unreleased songs "I've Got Viking in Me" and "All the Chimers", plus a DVD of music videos for "My Angel Rocks Back and Forth", "She Moves She", "As Serious as Your Life" and Pause single "No More Mosquitoes".[22]

Domino reissued Rounds in May 2013 on double vinyl, CD, and download. The CD and vinyl releases include a bonus CD of live material recorded in 2004 previously only available on the limited edition 2004 live album Live in Copenhagen 30th March 2004.[23]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 89/100[24]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[12]
Dusted favourable[13]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[11]
NME 9/10[17]
Pitchfork Media 8.2/10.0[18]
PopMatters favourable[14]
Spin A-[25]
Stylus Magazine B+[15]
The Village Voice A− [26]
The Wire favourable[16]

Rounds received critical acclaim. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews and ratings from mainstream critics, the album received a metascore of 89 based on 26 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim."[24]

AllMusic reviewer John Bush wrote that "though Rounds is experimental by nature" it "offers something for nearly every audience that could approach it."[12] Michael Crumsho of Dusted found the album "a musical salvo from an artist who’s confidently coming into his own", describing it as "a cozy, evocative soundtrack that’s as intricate as it is beautiful."[13] In his review for the Guardian, David Peschek described the album as "a trove of bewitching melody and subtle invention", and wrote that "Rounds succeeds not only as a meticulously conceived piece of art but also as a moving expression of human warmth."[11] In the NME, Tony Naylor wrote that the album was "extraordinary", "essential" and "full of remarkable sonic ideas."[17] Andy Beta, writing for Pitchfork Media, praised the record's "internal order" which "allows it to stand out against previous laptop explorations of immense record collections".[18]

Adrien Begrand's review in PopMatters found 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."[14] In Spin, Will Hermes described the album as a "varied trip" and noted "a darker vibe suggesting the influence of Hebden's labelmate Dan Snaith of Manitoba."[25] Stylus Magazine writer Nick Southall recognised Hebden's "perpetual evolution and motion," declaring that "this is simply a great record of beautiful music."[15] Robert Christgau's review of Rounds for the Village Voice argued that Hebden "imagines an aural space in which electronic malfunction is cute rather than annoying or ominous," using "the computer as music box."[26] Tom Ridge of The Wire stated that "nothing here sounds like an exercise in genre plundering," and that "Hebden has devised a musical identity that is distinctly different from his work with Fridge, but both projects share a passion for defying boundaries."[16]

Accolades[edit]

Rounds was ranked number four on the Metacritic list of highest-scoring albums of 2003,[27] and was named as one of the albums of 2003 by many publications, including the NME,[28] The Wire,[29] The Observer,[30] Prefix magazine,[31] Pitchfork,[32] Drowned in Sound,[33] the BBC,[34] The Face, Q and Uncut.[35]

Several publications rated Rounds as one of the best albums of the decade, with Pitchfork Media placing it at number 123 on their list of the top 200 albums of the 2000s.[36] On similar lists, Drowned in Sound placed it at number 13,[35] One Thirty BPM placed it at number 99,[37] and No Ripcord at number 48.[38] GQ rated it as one of the 40 best albums of the 21st century.[35]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Kieran Hebden[39]

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

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2003) Peak
position
UK Albums (OCC)[40] 60

Personnel[edit]

Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.[39]

Additional personnel
  • Guy Davie – mastering
  • Matt Cooper – layout, design
  • Jason Evans – photography

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gilman, Marc. "Dialogue - Four Tet". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Jurek, Thom. "Pause - Four Tet". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d 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. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ a b c d Inglis, Sam (July 2003). "Four Tet". Sound on Sound. SOS Publications Group. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Pollard, Vincent (May 2013). "Four Tet • Interviews • exclaim.ca". Exclaim!. Ian Danzig. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d Beta, Andy (13 May 2013). "Interviews: Four Tet | Features | Pitchfork". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Breihan, Tom (14 May 2013). "Hear The Original, Tori Amos-Sampling Version Of Four Tet's "Unspoken"". Stereogum. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "BBC - collective - four tet interview". BBC Collective. Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "The Conjurer". The Age. Fairfax Digital. 11 June 2004. Retrieved 29 October 2007. 
  11. ^ a b c Peschek, David (2 May 2003). "CD: Four Tet: Rounds | Music | The Guardian". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  12. ^ a b c Bush, John. "Rounds - Four Tet". Allmusic. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c d Crumsho, Michael (15 May 2003). "Dusted Reviews: Four Tet - Rounds". Dusted magazine. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c d e Begrand, Adrien (3 June 2003). "Four Tet: Rounds | PopMatters". PopMatters. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c d Southall, Nick (1 September 2003). "Four Tet - Rounds - Review - Stylus Magazine". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  16. ^ a b c Ridge, Tom (March 2003). "Four Tet - Rounds". The Wire (The Wire Magazine Ltd.) (231): 60. 
  17. ^ a b c Naylor, Tony (30 May 2003). "Four Tet : Rounds". NME. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  18. ^ a b c Beta, Andy (4 May 2003). "Four Tet: Rounds". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  19. ^ "She Moves She | Four Tet". fourtet.net. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  20. ^ "As Serious as Your Life | Four Tet". fourtet.net. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  21. ^ "As Serious as Your Life | Four Tet". fourtet.net. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  22. ^ "My Angel Rocks Back and Forth | Four Tet". fourtet.net. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  23. ^ Carrie Battan; Laura Snapes (15 February 2013). "Four Tet Announces Tenth Anniversary Edition of Rounds | News | Pitchfork". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  24. ^ a b "Critic Reviews for Rounds - Metacritic". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  25. ^ a b Hermes, Will (August 2003). Four Tet - Rounds (Domino). SPIN Media LLC. p. 118. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  26. ^ 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. 
  27. ^ "Best Albums of 2003". Metacritic. CNET. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  28. ^ "Albums and Tracks of the Year for 2003 - NME.COM". NME. IPC Media. Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  29. ^ "The Wire - Charts". The Wire. The Wire Magazine Ltd. Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  30. ^ "Albums of 2003 | Music | The Observer". The Observer. Guardian News and Media. 14 December 2003. Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  31. ^ "A look back at the best albums of the year: | Prefix". Prefix magazine. 10 December 2003. Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  32. ^ Pitchfork Staff (31 December 2003). "Staff Lists: Top 50 Albums of 2003 | Features | Pitchfork". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  33. ^ Adams, Sean (9 December 2003). "DiS Staff Top 75 Albums of 2003 / In Depth // Drowned In Sound". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  34. ^ "BBC - collective - albums of the year 2003". BBC Collective. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  35. ^ a b c "Acclaimed Music - Rounds". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  36. ^ Pitchfork staff (28 September 2009). "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 200-151". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 1 October 2009. 
  37. ^ Joyce, Colin (15 February 2010). "The Top 100 Albums of the 2000s | BPM". One Thirty BPM. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  38. ^ No Ripcord Staff (11 July 2012). "Top 100 Albums of 2000-2009 (Part Five: 60-41) - Music Feature - No Ripcord". No Ripcord. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  39. ^ a b Rounds (CD booklet). Four Tet. London: Domino Recording Company. 2003. WIGCD126. 
  40. ^ "Four Tet | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 14 November 2014.

External links[edit]