The tenth studio album from the U.K.’s Kieran Hebden is valid… not exceptional. Sixteen Oceans is the consistent and rigorous album of an artist who has refined his aesthetic over two decades, following the flow of the same original inspiration. Inspired? Yes. Redundant? Pretty much, yes. Here is the tenth iteration of a familiar, appreciated, celebrated approach, that can be agreed upon. Let’s look at the materials: an anthology of sounds treated, filtered, or left intact adorn this electronic music; harmonies and consonant melodies are set over electronic styles of different allegiances – techno, house, krautrock – mostly intended for the dancefloor. Other “movements” bring things down a notch, the sounds hover, the ambient choices are judicious for the most part. Singer Ellie Goulding participates on the single “Baby”, so as to add a more pop flavour to the affair. What do you think? Let’s not deny our immediate pleasure but… we have to face the fact that Four Tet’s progress is thin on Sixteen Oceans. The artist’s harmonic vision is reaching its limits, his rhythmic knowledge is limited to the known terrain of electronic music, the organisation of sounds only admits of micro-reforms. Hebden won’t be able to milk this cow for a long time with this same mixture, lest he reconcile himself to becoming a figure of electro nostalgia, to which his successors will refer with admiration… which is commendable in itself.
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