(Herald rating: * * *)
If there is a laptop equivalent to free jazz then Four Tet - the solo electronica project by Kieran Hebden from post-rock band Fridge - is close to it. Everything Ecstatic, Four Tet's fourth album, comes on in surges like you're sitting in a natural hot spring; sometimes it's scorching, sometimes it's unnerving, and sometimes just lukewarm.
Four Tet loves old-school techno and experimental beat making just as much as he is into innovative hip-hop, made by the likes of Madlib (aka Madvillain, aka Quasimoto).
Everything Ecstatic's throbbing moments (the agitator cycle of opener A Joy, or the percussive bashing of Sun, Drums and Soil) are great. But while much of this is beautiful, and the schizophrenic samples (sped-up curtain-call jingles anyone?) are stunningly crafted, be warned, it is a challenge. It's just that sometimes these great sounds seem like they are only there for the sake of it.
The eight-minute epic Sleep Eat Read Have Visions illustrates the two sides to this album: it starts in bleep-happy fairyland and then abates into a weird world of recurring alien beats.
If you're not up for Four Tet's challenge, here's a suggestion: perhaps combine a listening session with an art installation. The two would work well together and that way you'd get to hear this impressive work that, let's face it, isn't for everyone.