LIVE: Four Tet + Jon Hopkins @ EMPAC at RPI, 9/15/11
The Four Tet + Jon Hopkins show in EMPAC’s Studio 2 last Thursday evening was an invigorating glimpse into the work of two sonic architects seemingly intent on bringing together both the commercial and the cerebral possibilities of electronic music. One of the artists was more successful at this than the other.
I had been keeping tabs on Four Tet/Kieran Hebden for the last few years, after becoming a big fan of his friend and collaborator Caribou/Daniel Snaith. Unlike Caribou, Hebden’s solo recorded stuff had mostly underwhelmed me, but I had heard a few interesting remixes by him, and his installment of the “Late Night Tales” is my favorite of that DJ Mix compilation series. A guy who evinces such good taste as to mix together a funky early Manfred Mann tune (“One Way Glass”) with Terry Riley, Max Roach and a rare Tortoise A-side must put on quite the live show, right?
Well, sort of. Hebden has talent to be sure, but I found his set to be all one color, all one emotion. It did serve its purpose to get the mostly college-age crowd moving a bit – but if you’re a bit older, stodgier and without the appropriate mood enhancers, it all gets a bit samey. There was also the fact that Hebden had to follow an unforgettable set by fellow British techno-folker Jon Hopkins.
Altogether more ambitious in dynamic range, Hopkins performed brilliantly, whether manipulating the maelstrom of sound with his Korg Kaoss pads or sitting for a contemplative turn at the piano. This was body and head music of the highest order. Hopkins would take your basic sample and twist it, while pummeling deep bass charges down below. Songs routinely launched into deep spacescapes, both ends of the spectrum stretching into screaming highs and rumbling lows, all writhing with a mathematical pulse that conjured both machine and nature.
Hopkins was also aided by the evocative graphics of Troy visual artist David Lublin. Lublin’s conceptual pieces helped Hopkin’s already decidedly heady music become straight-up science fiction. One of the things measured onscreen was a so-called “Nostradamus effect”, while graphs playfully pretended to predict things like future musical genres. Sometimes they would make us think more somberly about dire topics like current human energy consumption – forecasting events out to 2077 does wonders to chasten one’s perspective on such things.
All in all, a terrific night of music-making and consciousness-raising, especially on the part of the night’s show-stealer, Jon Hopkins.
Review and photographs by Michael Hotter
KC’s review at Keep Albany Boring