Dusted Reviews

Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid / Four Tet - The Exchange Session Vol. 1 / Everything Ecstatic Part 2

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid / Four Tet

Album: The Exchange Session Vol. 1 / Everything Ecstatic Part 2

Label: Domino

Review date: Apr. 2, 2006

Most of the electronic musicians who assert a jazz influence have no more connection to jazz than a liquor ad with a trumpet hook. They never engage with the music’s tradition of rhythmic challenge or show much comprehension of its processes, just a yen its aura of cool. You have to give Kieran Hebden, a.k.a. Four Tet, credit for having the guts to back up his words with musical action; over the past year he’s thrown himself into the crucible by recording and touring with veteran drummer Steve Reid (Martha & the Vandellas, Sun Ra, Miles Davis). I wouldn’t go so far to say that this is jazz, or even that it’s a 100% successful record, but these guys are both pushing themselves.

Hebden has already recorded once with Reid’s band on Spirit Walk (Soul Jazz). There, his interjections functioned almost like a DJ, dropping sonic bombs that enlivened the band’s stout grooves and impassioned playing by challenging, but not disrupting, the flow. On the live-in-the-studio Exchange Session Volume 1, Hebden and Reid’s interactions are the flow. They’ve chosen to release the entire session, without editing or overdubbing; you can expect the rest of the session to be released on Volume 2 later this year. Hebden’s playing here amounts to all the stuff you get from Four Tet when you throw out the beats and the tunes; flickering drum and sax samples, pulsing sound waves, stacked loops that build in intensity as they accumulate density. I’m not sure that Reid has much feel for what to do with this material, so he just plays, sometimes laying down a wash of cymbals and toms, sometimes bashing enthusiastically, sometimes just marking time until the next good idea comes along. The record doesn’t sound much like a free improv session, but it retains the crucial dynamic of starting from zero and seeing where it goes, and there’s enough going on here to make me curious where they’ll go next.

Meanwhile, Four Tet is not dormant. The Everything Ecstatic Part 2 DVD reprises Hebden’s last record, slightly remixed and paired with videos. Most of them are abstract jumbles that would be best seen behind Hebden at a gig; only the McDaddy’s Bad Day scenario played out in “Smile Around the Face,” not coincidentally the only video with a more conventional narrative and a real live face to look at, stands up to repeated viewings. There’s also a 33-minute EP of reworked Everything Ecstatic material. The extended version of “Turtle Turtle Up” captures the vibe of a Four Tet firing live on all cylinders; the beat is bigger, the influx of squiggly noise more chaotic. “Sun Drums And Soil (Part 2)” foregrounds the drum breaks and Rhodes loops, and in the process loses some of the original's splendid Boredoms groove. It only comes to life when Hebden starts dicing and rearranging the beats. “Watching Wavelength” is a keeper; field recordings of outdoor environments advance and recede around distorted note patterns that equally recall Irmin Schmidt’s keyboards on Tago Mago and Konono No 1’s distorted thumb pianos. “This Is Six Minutes” pares chaos back to an anthemic motorik groove, then drops it within warning.

By Bill Meyer

Read More

View all articles by Bill Meyer

Find out more about Domino

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.