June 13, 2006

Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid, "The Exchange Session, Volume Two"

The second volume of recordings from the collaboration between Four Tet's Kieran Hebden and legendary jazz percussionist Steve Reid doesn't quite have the same energy as the first volume. As there's no real time line about when in the session these songs were recorded, it would be tempting to say that these three tracks were from the beginning of the session, when the two men were just getting a feel for the other's creative style, or that these songs come at the end of the session, when the two men were winding down and prone to making a more mellow sound. Thus, these three numbers all seem to recall the first volume's "Soul Oscillations," a song that definitely felt like a warm-up between the two collaborators.

Despite not quite living up to the electric atmosphere of the first volume, that doesn't mean that The Exchange Session, Volume 2 is less than interesting. The first number, "Hold Down the Rhythm, Hold Down the Machines" consists of the two fiddling around for a few minutes before finally hitting a cacophonous groove that ends quite loudly. It's not bad, but one would be justified in accusing Hebden of merely pushing sound-effect buttons for the sake of pushing buttons. The randomness of Hebden's electronic noodles throughout can grow quite irritating. When they finally come together, though, the groove is spectacular, and it's easy to forgive Hebden for his self-indulgent button pushing. If you're not in the mood for it, the twinkling of wind chimes and the sound of Japanese flutes found on the second song "NoƩmie" might grow tiresome, but that doesn't mean it's not a compelling improvisation on the nature of tribal music. The final song, "We Dream Free," is more of a low, quiet rumble, punctuated by Hebden's New Age-style bleeps.

Unlike Volume One, the music found here is a bit more obtuse, and the compositions are a bit more challenging, and the music is not as easy on the ears. Still, the collaboration does have its merits, and that this is the result of their first meeting does offer some hope of future recordings. Since the release of the first volume, the duo has performed live, and I'm sure that their performances are as captivating as their recordings. Maybe there will be a disc of those live performances? Might not be a bad thing!

Artist Website: http://www.kieranhebdenandstevereid.com
Label Website: http://www.dominorecordco.us

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