Kieran Hebden — who goes by the name Four Tet — combines elements of free-jazz, dub, folk, EDM and house into warm, oddly emotional electronic music. The enigmatic British producer rarely participates in interviews, mostly letting his glitchy, fractured soundscapes speak for themselves. On Friday, Hebden returns to U Street Music Hall for the second time in less than two years.
Refrigerate After Opening
Hebden began his career as a guitarist for post-rock band Fridge, which he formed as a teenager in 1995 with classmates from the Elliott School in Putney, England (which was renamed ARK Putney Academy in 2012). The school is the same place where members of British indie bands The xx and Hot Chip met and began making music. Fridge released five proper studio albums from 1997 to 2007 and acted as the backing band for singer-songwriter Badly Drawn Boy on a 2000 European tour.
Stop, Collaborate, Listen
Hebden has worked with (and remixed) many big names, including Radiohead singer Thom Yorke, producer Madlib, elusive rapper MF Doom, Caribou’s Dan Snaith and English dubstep producer Burial (another Elliott School alumnus). Yorke has repeatedly cited Hebden as an influence, especially on Radiohead’s most recent album, 2011’s “The King of Limbs.”
Don’t Call It Folktronica
Critics have labeled Four Tet’s music, which occasionally incorporates instrumental folk samples, as “folktronica” (think: Avicii’s massive hit, “Wake Me Up”), a term Hebden rejects as misleading. Though his watershed album, 2003’s “Rounds,” may make use of short folk passages, the record consists entirely of obscure vinyl samples across many genres, intended to create tension and space between wide-ranging organic sounds.
A Nostalgic ‘Rewind’
Hebden’s latest album, October’s “Beautiful Rewind,” is a slight departure from Four Tet’s usual aesthetic, nodding nostalgically to ’90s-era British electronic genre jungle. The sound is notable for its hyper-speed rhythmic break beats, reggae and dancehall influences, and minimalist elements. The single “Kool FM” takes its name from a U.K. pirate radio station that popularized the genre.
Hebden’s shows regularly last as long as the average workday. His set at London’s FabricLive in October was billed as eight hours long, and while his U Street Music Hall show has no announced set length, there’s also no telling how late it could run.
U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St. NW; Fri., 10 p.m., sold out, 202-588-1880. (U Street)