Top 100 Artists of the Decade: #31 Four Tet
The Top 100 Artists of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one artist and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 artist of the decade!
Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.
#31 Four Tet
Here's the self-referential music world, with artists copping bits and pieces of each other's styles until they choke on the fragments, and wayyyy over there – across that canyon, with the setting sun glowing mutely behind him – is Four Tet. From his vantage point, he can still hear the noise, in some small and simplified way, but it doesn't faze him. He's close enough to anchor himself in familiarity of contemporary sounds, but he has no intention of letting borrowed tricks and secondary techniques rip his music apart from the inside out.
All genres suffer from endless rehashing, but in electronic music especially, so much of what rushes through our consciousness could be attributed to any number of interchangeable artists. Four Tet has managed to carve out a sound with a canyon's distance on all sides. Call his style whatever you will – ambient, jazzy, retro hip hop, spacey and formless, folk (all of these and more at times) – but there's no particular gimmick that makes you snap your fingers and say, "that's Four Tet." Four Tet just is (and, thus, deserves more than the cheeky four-word zen I just offered – but it's true, damnit!). Every song is so honest to its ambitions that the eclecticism gets lost – the production value is so perfect that it pulls attention away from the ground that Four Tet can cover. For instance, it's hard to believe the chippy and sputtering mandolin on "Spirit Fingers" could share album space with the rubber duck sample and cold tile feel of Rounds closer "Slow Jam." I'm unwilling to get into the best album debate, because with a ten-year career span and a swarm of remixes, it's like trying to choose your favorite beer: there's one for every mood. My first answer might be Rounds, but my best answer might be "all of them." Four Tet, with his production prowess, should be required listening for upcoming artists, electronic or otherwise. The message: here's what you can do when you stop trying to imitate and start making music.
Check back tomorrow for the next artist! To see the full list of the Top 100 Artists of the Decade, click here.