"Ringer" by Four Tet
Since being coined in the early '90s, the term "Intelligent Dance Music" has been eschewed by most of the artists whose music it was meant to describe. Four Tet (a.k.a. Kieran Hebden) is to be praised, then, for not just grousing about his beats being called intelligent, but for resolving to bite down and make some that are good and stupid. On Ringer, a generously portioned EP, Hebden dials back his frenetic eclecticism, instead turning out ambitious yet danceable techno. All four of Ringer's bright, bracing beats have heart-beating kickdrums at their foundations, on which Hebden builds walls of Europhilic synthesizer. Fans of earlier albums such as Rounds and Everything Ecstatic will be caught off-guard by a track like "Ribbons," which for its first half is so austere, all the instruments can be counted on one hand. Meanwhile, on "Wing Body Wing," Hebden brings in a stuttering drum roll and crackling polyrhythmic percussion, a hint of the "more is more" approach he's built a fan base on. Ringer proves that an egghead can be a man of the people. Good news for Barack Obama.