Refreshing and enchanting at first, Morning/Evening's format eventually grows fatiguing and may leave listeners feeling lost.
Four Tet’s eighth studio album features only two tracks; ‘Morning Side’ and ‘Evening Side’. At 20 minutes a piece, the album takes listeners on a meandering electronic journey, uninhibited by breaks between tracks.
‘Morning Side’ creeps in with a solitary closed hi-hat before it is joined by increasingly fast drum beats and sorrowful synth chords that are sporadically dispersed throughout the rhythm. The track features vocals from 85 year-old Lata Mangeshka, a voice famous for her work on over a thousand Hindi films. Her voice initially pierces through the two layers present on the track and almost echoes the tone of the synth chords that work underneath it. What Four Tet achieves brilliantly, here, is space. The three layers of the track are allowed enough space that they can each be isolated and focused on in their entirety, giving the track depth.
There is a definitive shift eight minutes into ‘Morning Side’ as the vocals dissolve and are replaced by the sombre wails of synthesisers, making way for listeners to concentrate on the constantly building drum beat that runs throughout the track. Four Tet throws listeners off balance into a frantic mixture of sounds and clashes of notes, making the halfway point, where the track almost comes to a halt as the drum beat disappears, very welcome. It’s the return of Mangeshka’s vocals that give the track clarity again, and draw listeners away from the abyss of strange noises. ‘Morning Side’ is calming if you allow the vocals to guide you through, with the electronic sequences of the track often overwhelmingly intense.
‘Evening Side’ enters following short, futuristic beeps that fall rhymthically like raindrops. It grows from a light drum beat that is interspersed with a distant boom, before being interrupted by piercingly indecipherable noises. It sounds almost like the fairground from a distance, in slow motion. The track becomes increasingly intense as Four Tet replaces the light drum beat with forceful vibrations that echo the sound of wind across a field of reeds. He certainly creates the sense of evening on this side. It is darker than ‘Morning Side’ but more relaxed, mirroring the feel of twilight. Mangeshka’s vocals are again present, but less prominent. She features as repeated “woahs” that transcend all layers of the track and ricochet around your head, allowing a necessary sense of continuity between the two sides.
Four Tet carefully manages to construct a whole space for Morning/Evening. It somehow takes you by the hand and allows you to paint an emphatic picture in your mind based on the two sides of the track. Though more readily achieved with the clarity of ‘Evening Side’, the album’s first listen is an interesting one.
Morning/Evening isn’t an album listeners can dip in and out of. It quietly demands attention, for time to be set aside; and once you sink into it, it is mesmerising. But it doesn’t quite hold you in the grip that you want it to. Listeners may exit Morning/Evening, 40 minutes later, feeling a little lost.
Morning/Evening is out now via Text Records.