It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Kieran Hebden is the best producer of the past twenty years. Don’t look at me for explication, it’s an inarguable cosmic absolute, I can’t fuck with the laws of physics. Now, unless some of you dweebs are suffering flat-earther syndrome, we can move onto New Energy, Hebden’s ninth album as Four Tet.

Considering 2015’s Morning/Evening’s figurative standing as an elongated 12”, New Energy scans as Hebden’s first substantial album in four years; and even then, 2013’s Beautiful Rewind wilted in benign passiveness, functional but bereft of the beauty and idiosyncrasy that’s defined Hebden since his transition from post-rock with his first band Fridge.

If the knotty baseness of Aphex Twin recalls brutalism, Four Tet evokes the deceptively simple elegance of classicism*, and through this lens New Energy is his most discernibly illustrative record; a halfway house between the sprinkling, jazz-soaked electronica of his early phase and the club-friendly house of There Is Love In You onwards. This encapsulation was implied by the advance singles, with ‘Two Thousand And Seventeen’ – one of New Energy’s divinest cuts, and therefore nominally oxymoronic – as cradling as if ripped from Hebden’s 2003 breakthrough Rounds; while the whirling shufflebeat of ‘Planet’ is tattooed by the good-natured muscularity of 2012’s Pink. ‘LA Trance’ and ‘You Are Loved’ are poised unions of both aesthetics; underpinned by crisp drones, the synth darts wriggle free into opulent spaces. The ninety second/two minute tracks like ’10 Midi’ and tone-setter ‘Alap’ are quiet highlights, their brevity often demonstrating Hebden’s most adventurous trimmings with abstracted piano and a breezy metallophone.

Four Tet’s remit is perennial clarity and crispness; you can discriminate every loop and arrangement even as they build into double figures, each distinct and melodiously manipulative. ‘Lush’ – with its wonderful, wonderful Hang idiophone – and ‘SW9 9SL’ interweave blissfully, exemplary of such tradition, but ‘Daughter’ is its greatest distillation. The track’s centrepiece – a wrought female vocal that reverberates like a worn incantation – is introduced first, before gradual embellishments of parsed vocals, strings, and keyboards embrace and elevate it; Brian Eno textures circling an affecting, dislocated sample. As crystalline as each segment is, the equanimity of its whole is overwhelmingly beautiful, Hebden’s wholehearted tribute to his child one of my favourite moments in music this year.

As effective a self-approximation as New Energy is, there are inborn drawbacks to this relative conservatism. ‘Scientists’ and ‘Memories’ glide by functionally but flaccidly; and passive, uninterrupted album listens can inspire feelings of what our Reviews Editor Rob aptly described as homogeneity. As layers continue to unpack themselves, as electronic albums indelibly do, I’m positive greater whims and graces will flower.

To say New Energy is a consolidation rather than a progression may seem damning with faint praise, but its palate is so substantial and nourishing that such slight ambition is peripheral. If you’re served a basic carbonara by a Michelin-star pasta chef it’s still a damn fine carbonara.

*And dudebro-EDM embodies functionalism, am I right architecture lads?