Monday, July 14, 2008

From the vaults : Kieren Hebden and Steve Reid - Tong

Kieren Hebden and Steve Reid – Tongues

Domino (2007)

Kieran Hebden can barely put a foot in the wrong place , whether producing or remixing and making music under his Four Tet ( there’s his band Fridge as well) moniker, the results are usually perfect. One very admirable thing about him is that he is totally unpredictable in what he does. Honestly who produces Adem, and Sunburned Hand of the Man and has top ten chart albums?

At the moment though its seems that he is focusing quite a bit of his time on his collaboration with legendary drummer Steve Reid who’s thumped the tubs for Fela Kuti, Sun Ra, James Brown (and trust me to be James Brown’s drummer is a feat!) and Martha and the Vandellas, to name a few of the more famous stints. The duo met in 2005 and collaborated on an album called Spirit Walk for the Soul Jazz label.

This led on to 2006’s double album ‘The Exchange Sessions’, which was essentially music built upon improvising ( or if you want to be blunt 15 minute jams). Sometimes it was great and sometimes it was dull. But the effort itself was admirable and face it, not too many artists do this sort of thing and (sort of) get away with it.

This time round Hebden decided to take the idea a step further and use a vague melody as the basis of the music and then improvise with Reid around. The catch being that it had to be done in a relatively short space of time.

Does it work?

Well like the exchange sessions, there are some fine moments. The opener The sun never sets’ is the duo working at their best, creating some catchy, highly rhythmic music. ‘Rhythm dance’ is another eye opener as it evolves from an ambient drone to a full funk workout’ even the version of ‘Greensleeves’ is not too bad. But there are the fair share of stinkers. ‘Superheros’ is plain awful, ‘Squid’ isn’t to great either, a number of tracks are ok but they don’t have a punch and meander too quickly. On the whole it is an album with a bit more tweaking and care, could have yielded better results. Considering Hebden’s near impeccable output this is rather disappointing but I wouldn’t brand it as unlistenable or something to discard.

Like all talented guys now and then they slip up a teensy bit. I would consider Tongues to be a minor blip at the moment it’s quiet on the Four Tet front so I’m assuming that there is something brewing in the future that will open eyes once again.

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