Tête-à-Tet: a letter to Kieran Hebden
It’s been a while since we last spoke. And when I say ‘spoke’, I mean since I sent you a gushing email late one night when I should have been writing a university essay, and you never got back to me. Hey, it’s okay. No hard feelings. In retrospect, I would also have been creeped out if some random guy got in touch with me via my website and asked if we could ‘hang out’.
But you’ve got to know, I sent that message with the best possible intentions. All I wanted to say then, and now, is: dude, I love your stuff! In fact, I’m such a fan of your genre-defying and super-smart electronica that I’ve barely stopped listening to it for the last decade. Think I’m exaggerating? You should take a look at my iTunes ‘Most Played’ list. There, as in many other musical arenas, you’re beating the competition hands down.
There are few, if any, other producers who have showed themselves to be as independent, generous and free-thinking as you over the years. I know, I know… I’m effusing again, but I feel like your music has taken me on a singular journey. We started out in a place of wistful experimentation, and have ended up getting intellectual in the world of club bangers (props for the recent Justin Timberlake remix, by the way).
It all began in 2001, with your breakthrough second album, ‘Pause’. I played its bittersweet melodies and bedroom beats to death that year, as I have every year since. ‘Rounds’, ‘Everything is Ecstatic’, ‘There is Love in You’: all of these LPs I cherished through the noughties.
Recently, however, I can barely keep up with your output. I’ve danced like a demon to your production work for Omar Souleyman, marvelled at your compilation of offcuts and rarities ‘0181’, and swooned to this month’s wonderful ‘Beautiful Rewind’ – your most self-assured album of instinctively awesome dance tracks yet.
What really inspires me, though, is your commitment to doing things in the right way. Take the epic, all-night DJ sets you’ve taken to playing in London clubs. It’s not easy curating up to eight hours of essential records, from old-school hip hop to Syrian techno, and there’s a reason why people queue around the block to see you play.
Now I see that you’re putting on an all-day event at Village Underground where you start playing at 8am. On a Sunday. Whether you’re trying to catch ravers from the night before, confound expectations of when electronic music should be played or (with typical modesty) you’re simply giving others the chance to headline, I won’t question the logic. I’ll just be there, like Sting, watching you.