No fuss notebooks is all it takes to do the Rounds

Given that FourTet’s music is generated electronically it may come as a bit of a surprise that the hardware of choice when this UK act performs live is a rather simple affair.

Playing a show at Sydney’s Gaelic Club earlier this month, FourTet, aka Kieran Hebden, took to the stage with a couple of notebooks and a mixer, and managed to keep the crowd charmed and wooed by his mix of melodic electro folk tunes.

Hebden has produced several records. His most acclaimed have been his 2001 release Pause, and last year’s Rounds which featured songs such as ‘Hands’ and ‘My angel rocks back and forth’. Critics term his style of music Folktronica -- a cross between techno, electronic and folk music. Whatever the case, when he performs live, all his ‘instruments’ are left behind and his two notebooks take centre stage.

Hebden has been using Sony Vaio notebooks for quite some time. “They seem designed to cope with multimedia so the sound is pretty good and they have been reliable for me so far.”

During a show each runs different software -- one notebook runs AudioMulch, the other Cool Edit. The two audio signals are then fed into his DJ mixer, a Pioneer DJM-600. The mixer has a built-in sampler and effects that Hebden uses while on stage.

Despite the creation of sound being the most important application on his notebooks, Hebden has no fancy sound card to speak of. “I just use the sound card built into the notebook,” he said. “It's made by Yamaha, I think.”

As far as operating systems are concerned, both systems run Windows XP. There is no real reason for using XP over other OSes. “I just run whatever comes on the computer I buy. I'm happy with XP though. It copes well with what I do.”

Playing live with notebooks means a fair amount of faith must be held in the equipment -- as some recent visitors to Australia have experienced. Last year at a show in Sydney, UK band Lamb had a faulty computer play up during one of their songs. And earlier this year, similar problems were encountered during a show by Luke Vibert and Aphex Twin.

However, Hebden says he has been fortunate. “Never had a crash.” Nor is he too concerned. “If it did I could keep some sort of noise going from the sampler I use on stage while I rebooted,” he said.

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Howard Dahdah

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