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Four Tet’s tenth studio album, ‘Sixteen Oceans,’ is serene, soothing, and incredibly timely [Album Review]

When an artist crosses a milestone like their tenth studio album release, its rather apparent they’ve become a master of their medium. But the way Four Tet‘s newest full-length project, Sixteen Oceans, comes together shows it’s about much more than resilience with him. The British electronic veteran’s 16-track masterpiece, which was released on his very own Text Records imprint, is a bonafide manifesto that his medium is the message.

Considering the album’s untimely release, in the midst of an unprecedented historical moment, Four Tet said the following over Twitter on how his art may help during the current coronavirus pandemic: “Weird going on about this right now with crazy times in the world. But when things are intense I always turn to music. So hopefully the release is a helpful thing for some people.”

The release, which arrives as Four Tet’s first proper album since 2017’s New Energy, is an exploratory dive deep into the artist’s signature ambience and complex beat structures. Of course, Four Tet has already released three singles from the album: “Teenage Birdsong,” “Baby” featuring Ellie Goulding, and “4T Recordings,” which odes to his early-on side moniker when he was a teenager in a post-rock band.

With 13 more arrivals now completing the puzzle, Sixteen Oceans tells a story that is every bit as eclectic, experimental, and effortless as it is intelligent, carefully designed, and meticulous. From the chiming tones of “Romantics” and the organic landscapes of “Green” and “ISTM,” to the melodic, minimal spaces of “Something in the Sadness” and the lo-fi textures of “1993 Band Practice,” the sheer diversity and range on Sixteen Oceans is nothing short of astounding.

This is an album which knows no bounds: No generic bounds, no stylistic bounds, just a free flowing menagerie of sounds. A lot like throwing one’s self into a brook and feeling the water wash you downstream, even. Meditative, serene, and soothing, Sixteen Oceans is music in its purest state. Meaning this is what music should do. This is how music should feel—boundless, universal, and free from constraint.

In a time when clubbing and attending music festivals has been brought to a screeching halt, and music fans are being told to practice social distancing, an album such as this seems anything but untimely. Four Tet has become a master of building spectacular sonic spaces and Sixteen Oceans is another living testament to that.