Credit: Egon/Four Tet
by Andrew Bosma Ledger Line Music

Madlib & Four Tet | Sound Ancestors

February 15, 2021

This sample-heavy team-up between Madlib and Four Tet manages to showcase both their talents while creating something sonically unlike anything they could have made individually.

After years of rumors about a potential collaboration, and about two decades of listeners familiarizing themselves with both Otis Jackson Jr. and Kieran Hebden — better known by as Madlib and Four Tet, respectively — the duo has at last combined their unique sonic worlds into one, with the release of the much-anticipated Sound Ancestors. Of course, both of these producers are no stranger to collaborative work, so it’s not surprising that their joining forces has resulted in a clear division of labor: Madlib focuses on the beats and samples, while Four Tet takes editing, arranging, and mastering duties. Apart, each commands an incomparable constellation of sound; and the blend of the two creates music unlike any either have ever made before.

There are an endless array of samples here (at the time of this writing, a complete list isn’t available). First single “Road of the Lonely Ones” features vocals from Ethics’ “Lost in a Lonely World” (“Where did I go wrong?/ Can you tell me now?/ Did I ever treat you bad?”) set against a sparse, rolling drum beat. The sound is akin to being in a spacious, empty room — surrounded by voices. “One for Quartabê/Right Now” boats an otherworldly-sounding Busta Rhymes verse (“Screwdriver-driver to just tighten up one of them screws inside of his skull over there/ Might need a new pair of socks or som- Pshh, get outta here”), one of a number of transcendent moments that seems to lift the work out of its very listening space. By and large, that’s what this album does with each of its electronic peaks and heavy hip-hop beats — samples from jazz, reggae, and (naturally) hip-hop weave their way in and out of the fabric of the record, creating a wholly singular soundscape. It’s an essential album from a long sought-after collab, and we can only hope it’s not the last.

Published as part of Album Roundup — January 2021 | Part 1.