Posted on Jun 12th 2007 10:53 am

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Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid: Tongues

Domino Recording Co. 2007
10 Tracks. 44mins45secs

Since he took some time off Fridge to concentrate on Four Tet, Kieran Hebden has become one of the most prominent artists of the British electronic scene of the last ten years. Three years ago, he met legendary percussionist Steve Reid, and the pair began working on live collaborations, resulting in the double-barreled Exchange Session (volume one and two). The records were the result of improvisations, which were presented in their raw form, with no overdubs. Although split into bite size sections of barely more than thirty to forty minutes, these recordings suffered from lack of general focus necessary for this kind of project, and failed to capture the true energy of the live shows the duo had been performing earlier.

While recorded in the same conditions as the twin albums of last year, Tongues is a much more settled and balanced affair, and demonstrate how the two have learnt to channel their respective energy and work alongside each other in a more efficient fashion. Crucially, Hebden’s presence is much more prominent and consistent here. The fluid essence of Four Tet still doesn’t quite percolate through Reid’s ardent rhythmic sections, but he contributes to the lighter aspect of the great majority of the pieces here. The opening track captivates with its syncopated cuts and dense noise formations, evoking a jogger’s portable music device gone into spasmodic fit. Brain and even more so Out Time are refreshingly melodic and cheerful, the latter proving a rather seductive piece where lush harp samples cascade down a restrained rhythmic section.

Later on, the pair tackle the phone system hold favourite that is Greensleeves on music boxes and metallic percussions and manage to make it at once sound fresh and powerful. Reid leads almost entirely on Mirrors, with Hebden set slightly back, providing discreet electronics all the way through. Superheros sounds like a video games arcade in the middle of a civil war as dense clouds of analogue bleeps continuously hammer the driving rhythm set in motion by Reid. Rhythm Dance proves a much more hazardous piece. After layering soft electronics for just under a minute, Hebden seems to suddenly fall victim of a massive sonic fit before he gets some order in the chaotic sound collage he has spread at Reid’s feet as the tracks finally gets going. If, over its course, the pair manage to regain some interest, they struggle to limit the damage. The album concludes in rather subdued mood with the slightly sombre tones of Left Handed, Left Minded. Here, the pair tame their respective instruments to offer a beautifully restrained piece.

On Tongues, Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid have moved away from the lengthy and dense improvisations of their previous effort and refocused on the playful aspect of their collaboration, and while the album still shows signs of slight over-indulgence at times, Hebden and Reid manage to create here a record at once experimental and interesting.

Icon: arrow Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid | Domino Recording Co.
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One Response to “KIERAN HEBDEN & STEVE REID: Tongues (Domino)”

  1. […] in London and published in March 2006, followed by a second installment a few months later, with Tongues and NYC coming in 2007 and 2008 […]