Kieran Hebden, bka Four Tet, has been making music for long enough that it's possible to have a favorite period. Maybe you like his pre-Four Tet excursions in post rock band Fridge best, or maybe its the more dancefloor friendly mode he's currently in, which germinated in 2005's Everything is Ecstatic, became his wheelhouse in 2010's There is Love in You and was perfected in the recently released singles compilation Pink. For me, my interest in Four Tet's music came in 2003 with Rounds, an album that had very few moments of dancefloor bliss, and instead features Hebden unwinding clusters of complex drumwork over hiccuping acoustic guitar and something that sounded like a gamelan, years before I even knew the gamelan was an instrument. His latest release, 0181, which you can download as one seamless mix for zero dollars and which will soon be out on vinyl is a collection of unreleased pieces from his post-Fridge, pre-Rounds period, which was also the beginning of the Four Tet project as a whole. Encompassing work produced between 1997 (a full two years before his debut Dialogue) and 2001, when he released Pause. What's most striking about 0181 is how it so clearly lays the groundwork for what Hebden would later explore—downtempo sax workouts, nag champa drum loops that give way to breathless, glowing synth experiments. Listening to the songs, something else about Hebden's work becomes clear: its complete lack of cynicism. Each track feels like a wide-eyed exploration of disparate musical themes, brought together by Hebden's compositional skill.
Download: Four Tet, 0181