Four Tet’s latest, Parallel, is gargantuan. From its mammoth, 26-minute opening track and every delicious beat afterwards, it’s a completely meditative experience. Part of the immersion of the album undoubtedly stems from the artist’s decision to name each track numerically.
When we look to albums we love, the best are often the ones that invite us into their world – the ones that have considered every detail, down to track names. When a track-list is released before an album, there’s often a rush of excitement as fans attempt to decode what each track might sound like based on only its name. Remove them, and is it possible that the product can be anything close to immersive? Four Tet proves it can.
“In a world where we consume things passively, nameless art makes us work that little bit harder to make sense of it”
We generally turn to art and music for comfort – it provides us reassurance when it’s relatable and reflective of our own lives. Without a song name to guide that, we go into the track blind and without expectations. It gives the track an anonymity that you would not have with a named track, where you might listen to it with preconceived ideas of what will come next. Without a name to guide us, it is easier to project our own emotions and feelings onto them. The music becomes immersive, because in its meditative quality we can exist in an immersive world and craft the narrative of the track ourselves.
Art, in remaining nameless, allows you to completely envision your own interpretation of it. In recent years, it has become increasingly common for art pieces to be simply labelled ‘Untitled’. They could be anything – the fundamental point is that regardless of what you are seeing, without a name art is essentially what you decide it is. As much as the act of creating a piece of art, or putting together an album is a creative exercise, by leaving it unnamed, the audience can experience an act of creativity for themselves. In a world where we consume things passively, nameless art makes us work that little bit harder to make sense of it.
Naming a portrait, for example, could be misleading. It could preassign emotions to the art before you, leading you to examine it with that already in mind. Without that lead, you’re free to decide your own definition of it – it’s liberating, in a sense. Taking a more active part in what you consume can allow you to glean more enjoyment from it: it’s not simply an album, or a piece of art anymore. It’s more personal and intimate.
“That stripped-back quality that the lack of naming provides places the emphasis on the music itself, not on its packaging and marketing strategies”
Four Tet’s twinkling soundscapes invite you directly into a world of your creating. You decide what each song soundtracks for you, personally. In abandoning names, he invites freedom and innovation for the individual. It might seem like more effort to craft your own narrative, but for Four Tet and those acting similarly, it’s a new experience like no other.
In a sense, it’s a rawer offering for the artist too. Not only does it allow listeners to revel in their own intimacy and self, but it presents the artist’s vision in its simplest form. There’s an added intimacy to that, too. The insight into the process and product itself creates something much more personal. That stripped-back quality that the lack of naming provides places the emphasis on the music itself, not on its packaging and marketing strategies – isn’t that how it should be?