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Six By Six: Four Tet

Kieran Hebden picks his all-time favourite tunes

2009 Mar 01     
2 Bit Thugs

Brazilian jazz, 1940s children's records, classic Motown, neo-classical minimalism and all manner of strange Afro bizniss... welcome to the crazy musical world of Four Tet


Orch. DO7 Shirati Jazz - Mika Owiti Gor (Makossa International, 1980)

"This is Kenyan, the music is called benga and I've only just really found out about it. A lot of people have been reissuing all the funk-influenced African music but this stuff is heavy 4/4 drums and mad twinkling guitars over the top. It's exactly the same tempo as a techno record it's been a surefire roof blower in every setting!"

Caribou - The Bowls (Unreleased)

"There's a new Caribou album coming out this year and I can tell you there's a few big big club tracks on it! He's a good friend of mine and I've had this for about a year. It's another staple bomb - every time I drop it I'm bombarded by people asking what it is. This is a heads-up!"

Jackie McLean & Michael Carvin - De I Comahlee Ah (Steeple Chase, 1975)

"This is a mental jazz record. It's a drum and saxophone affair but with a heavy beat beneath it. It's very African-influenced and again, it just happens to be the same tempo as a techno record. At first I thought 'I'll never be able to drop this out' but then I did and it really worked!"

Nightlife Unlimited - Peaches & Prunes [Ron Hardy Edit] (Partehardy, 2005)

"A Ron Hardy classic. He's been a big inspiration to me over the years, exploring the legacy he left. Edits are so popular nowadays but what Ron Hardy was doing is unequalled. This is my favourite; it sits with everything."

William Onyeabor - When The Going Is Smooth & Good (Wilfilms, 1985)

"I first discovered William Onyeabor on a compilation made by David Byrne, but I wanted to find out more. It's African music but it's done with synths. It's almost like Kraftwerk or Throbbing Gristle but with happy vocals. I've got a feeling that if I play it at the right time it'll really blow up."

Some Treat - Lost in Vegas (Jonny Biscuit Records, 1998)

"I was such a huge fan of speed garage and two-step so I've been going back to a lot of the old records from that era. People go nuts to this; it's got a beat that you might hear on a Burial record but a bassline from a Crazy Cousins record. It's amazing!"


John Abercrombie - Timeless (ECM, 1975)

"A truly beautiful record that I'll love forever. I never considered it a warm-up record until I saw Villalobos play at Fabric's birthday. He played four sets over 36 hours - one of them was at 4pm which was a surreal experience in itself. The first record he played was a 14-minute John Abercrombie record and people started arguing in the crowd! People were booing, others were cheering - it was very surreal."

Lord Creator - Such Is Life (Randy's, 1969)

"An old ska record. A lot of old reggae records have been re-released and I just fell in love with this. A lot of times when I play, the DJ before me will have it at 130BPM banging mania so I just change the vibe with something like this. It's soulful, it's uplifting, it changes the mood completely."

D'Angelo - Africa (Virgin, 2000)

"Another mellow one. When I play my long sets at Plastic People I'll drop this nice and early. It's crazy mellow but as people are coming in a big warm record like this works as a great beginning."

Pheeroan Ak Laff - 3 In 1 (Passin' Thru Records, 1990)

"I discovered this on a recent Soul Jazz compilation called Freedom Rhythm & Sound. I couldn't believe I'd never heard it and I HAD to have it! This works really well early and later on it's just drums and has a powerful effect on people; they just dance!"

Richard Pinhas - Variations III (Cobra, 1978)

"This is French electronic music from the 70s. A lot of sounds came out of France at this time but it's not been documented because everyone was looking at German music at the time. Pinhas did some amazing records, with great pulsating synths and drums. I play a lot of his stuff as a warm up."

Sabu Martinez & Sahib Shihab - The Distorted Sioux Indian (Mellotronen, 2008)

"This has got a really heavy beat but it's all about this saxophone sound that's been put through a Moog. The sax almost sounds like a synth. It's the sort of record I like to play before things get heavy. If I'm the first DJ on then I'll take my time with the first hour or so; it doesn't need to be pounding straight away."


Michel Legrand - Les Demoiselles De Rochefort (Philips, 1968)

"Another French producer. He's a legendary composer whose done all sorts of soundtracks and worked with lots of people. I remember hearing this as a kid all the time: it's a big band soundtrack and such a clever score. I've seen the film 20 times, and it's one of those records I know I'll hear all my life."

Rockin' Dopsie - Ma Negresse (Sonet, 1976)

"This is a really great record - it's almost dance in its make-up. Some of my earliest memories are of my mum and dad dancing to this in the kitchen! It suddenly popped into my head recently so I tracked down a copy."

The Velvelettes - Needle In A Haystack (Motown, 1968)

"This is a Motown classic. I remember my parents playing this at parties. It's the soundtrack of my youth; whenever I hear it I just go straight back to those days."

Vince Guaraldi Trio - Oh Good Grief!(Fantasy, 1989)

"Vince did all the music to the Charlie Brown cartoons. When I was a kid I'd have these records with books that you'd read along with it. There'd be a sound that would indicate when you turn a page. This has had a lot of plays over the last few years but it instantly takes me back. It's like an early and contemporary influence on me!"

Milton Nascimento - Sentinela (Ariola, 1980)

"Milton is a really famous singer in Brazil. It's another record my parents were into and always brings back fond memories. It turns out this was Milton during his cheesy 80s period; I tell people about it in Brazil and they're like 'Oh God, that's when he totally lost it!' I love all his records, though, he's got such a great voice. This was my entry point so this particular record of his is the real early influence for me."

The Innocence - Mairzy Doats And Dozy Doats (Karma Sutra, 1943)

"This is a really silly kids record. I had my own little toy turntable as a kid and my parents got me all these 7-inch records with silly songs and stories on them. I look back at that crate as a massive early influence!"


Tom Johnson - Nine Bells (India Navigation, 1982)

"I've picked some weird-arsed records for this section! Tom Johnson suspended nine bells in a room, each one with a different sound. He then drew out patterns to walk around them, striking each bell as he passes it. You can hear his footsteps as the chords of the bells ring in a beautiful way. I love amazingly defined concepts."

Benge - 1981 Yamaha CS70M (Expanding Records, 2007)

"I don't know much about Benge but he put out one of my favourite albums of 2007 called Twenty Systems. He got 20 different old synths and made a track on each of them. They're all beautiful solo synth compositions - thoroughly recommended."

Laurie Spiegel - Patchwork (Philo, 1980)

"A spaceship was sent into the depths of space with a load of information about Earth. On the spaceship is a record, a golden record with lots of examples of music. Everything from Elvis to Beethoven is on it but the first track is by Laurie: she got equations of the orbits of each planet and transferred those equations into tones and played them all at once. It's this weird electronic noise, and it's the sound of our universe. Literally!"

Stephen Scott - New Music For Bowed Piano (New Albion, 1999)

"Another contemporary minimal classical piece. The concept of this was loads of people huddled around a piano bowing the strings. It's very bizarre! A lot of people know about Glass and Reich but Scott shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to modern composers."

Arnold Dreyblatt - Propellers In Love (Stasch, 1986)

"The same vibe as the Stephen Scott piece. It's really rhythmic and melodic but based around very unorthodox tunings and sequences. I think he might've even made his own string instrument!"

Mort Garson - Plantasia (Homewood, 1976)

"This is a synthesizer record that was made to play to plants to help them grow! I thought it was weird when I got it but I've since found another record for plants. They came up with such crazy records in the 70s!"


L'Infonie - Mantra (Polydor, 1970)

"I picked this category because I didn't know if you meant records to hear on a plane or records to escape the planet! I chose the more psychedelic concept and this sums it up perfectly. L'Infonie are from Montreal, and did these crazy prog records. This is psychedelic mania - it takes two sides of the vinyl. It's like what The Boredoms are doing now, it's very ahead of its time."

Group Bombino - Guitars From Agadez Vol 2 (Sublime Frequencies, 2009)

"One of my favourite albums of last year. Sublime do lots of different compilations that collect all these mad sounds from around the world. Some of this one is quite acoustic and lo-fi but I promise it will take you away. I recommend the album in general; you never know what to expect!"

Joyce - Aldeia De Ogum (Odeon Fonografica, 1980)

"Another Brazilian thing. Joyce is a famous Brazilian singer and this is pure uplifting joy. It's a beautiful record to play at the end of the night: there's no words, just this really cool scat singing. It sounds bad but trust me it's not!"

M'Boom - Re:Percussion (Strata-East, 1973)

"A percussion ensemble from the 70s. I think they did about four albums. There's two drummers, two percussionists, a vibraphone and xylophone. It's almost a blueprint for bands like Tortoise. It's jazz but percussion-led, and they made some really beautiful music. There's footage of them online - check it out, it'll blow your mind."

Roland Young - Isophonic Boogie Woogie (EM Records, 2005)

"A very weird mix of mix of jazz and minimalist classical, with African instruments playing repetitive riffs. It's a really mad clash of genres, a totally unique record."

O.C. - Time's Up (Wyld Pitch, 1994)

"Some old skool hip-hop for you here. I thought I'd put something totally different in here to mix things up. I'm still heavily influenced by 90s hip-hop production and still mix my records with those techniques in mind. Trevor Jackson put this up on Facebook recently and it just took me away. The vocalists work in such a different way. Refreshing!"


Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid - Arrival (Domino, 2008)

"This is a track off the last album we did, NYC. I love working with Steve but of all the stuff I've done with him this is my favourite. All my old records are wrapped up in nostalgia, even ones as recent as this."

Fridge - Kinoshita (Go Beat, 1998)

"This was really influenced by two-step. We were obsessed by MJ Cole at the time and this was our take on it. A lot of the ideas I pursued on this record are ideas I'm coming back to now!"

Four Tet - Glasshead (Output, 1998)

"Of all my early stuff this is one I'm most proud of. It did a lot of things I was trying to achieve at the time. There's this crazy mix of Kraut ock and jazz influences in there which I think sound well. It's crazy that these records are 12 years old!"

Roger O'Donnell - The Truth In You [Four Tet Remix] (Great Society, 2006)

"This seemed to slip through the net; it's one of my favourite remixes but no one has ever heard of it! Hopey people will pick up on it after this feature. This is quite dubby and minimal - I'd have to be in Germany to get away with this on the dancefloor!"

Babe Terror - Summertime Our League [Four Tet Remix] (Phantasy, 2010)

"This is due out very soon. Erol signed Babe Terror, a guy from Brazil who I'd been following on MySpace. I bumped into him in a record shop and he told me all about him. I told him I was already a fan so he asked me to do a remix. I'm looking forward to it being released."

Burial & Four Tet - Moth (Text, 2009)

"I'm so proud of this. Me and Burial were both really happy. It's nice to hear the final results of a collaboration and feel that we've both got exactly what we had in mind. I'd been playing it at Plastic People before it came out and people didn't seem that bothered, but now it's out and people recognise it I get this mad cheer the minute the first chords come in. We didn't do any promo - the only hype is from general fans. I love that."