Four Tet’s New Single Channels Spring Beauty

Kieran Hebden busy at work. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

WHILE APRIL showers and May’s subsequent flowers are signposts of spring in many places, Portland’s perpetual precipitation renders that information somewhat irrelevant. April showers mean little when they’ve been preceded by months of the very same weather. Thankfully, despite the fact that Portlanders can’t rely on rain for anything other than its constancy, British producer Four Tet is seeing to it that we know spring really is mid-bloom. On his new single “Teenage Birdsong,” Kieran Hebden successfully channels the gentle beauty of the season, in its birdsongs and beyond.

Hebden’s prolific discography is saturated with lush beauty, precise drum programming and evocative melody, and to that end “Teenage Birdsong” should be satisfyingly familiar to Four Tet fans. The song is carried by an immediately infectious flute, which isn’t to say that the instrument occupies all of the track’s sonic real estate. Instead, it sits lightly atop a warm bass synth, being carried as naturally as a cool breeze emanating from a stream. The percussion feels organic and tactile, and “Teenage Birdsong”’s final moments sigh with a gradually slowing harp — a soft letdown from Hebden’s crystalline conjurings.

What makes this birdsong “teenage” is worth considering, at least as someone whose tenure as a teen skewed more towards awkward and hormonal than confident and elegant. As the song was released during the week between his dual Coachella performances, Hebden has recently been surrounded by the youth culture that might’ve informed the song. Perhaps it comes from a place of optimism; the oncoming spring paired with the opportunities that stand before adolescence. Or maybe “Teenage Birdsong” is an ode to the social utility of music, effectively doing for people what a real bird’s song does for the bird. Either way, the contrast is a sweet one, overlaying clarity and comprehensibility onto a period of life that’s anything but.

In March Hebden tweeted that he was “working on (a) new record,” which will be the follow-up to 2017’s “New Energy.” It is unclear whether “Teenage Birdsong” (as well as last month’s Nelly Furtado-flipping “Only Human”) will appear on that release or not. The song might function well as a stand-alone single, arriving with the bloom of spring and fading into the coming months. Yet despite the ephemerality of the season evoked in “Teenage Birdsong,” the track is so irresistible that it’ll likely stick around whatever the weather.

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