Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid | WIG189 | Released: 13/03/07
Tongues is the new record from Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid, and as you'd expect from two musicians so addicted to fresh sounds, it finds them speaking a whole new language after their earlier collaborations. You could never mistake Tongues for Volume 3 of the duo's acclaimed Exchange Sessions, even if they were produced with a similar aesthetic in mind. Like those encounters, Tongues features no overdubs or edits, just the unfiltered sound of two minds engaging in musical dialogue. The kaleidoscopic effects of Steve's drumming and Kieran's electronic chops and change-ups are all carved out and created in real time. But things have changed. The Exchange Sessions were documents of a specific moment, when Kieran and Steve had barely played together at all. The takes were long, loose and exploratory as the two musicians tested the waters and got to know each other. Tongues is more explosive. A series of shorter tracks, it's an altogether more focussed and even melodic blast. And it's been influenced by the heavy round of touring the duo have undertaken since those first encounters.
''We've been playing all kinds of mad different shows, from drum'n'bass nights in Italy to the Green Man festival in Brecon,'' explains Kieran, ''so the crowds have been really unpredictable. You get old jazz heads coming out to see Steve and dance kids too.'' So one thing thats come through from all this touring is Tongues' more concentrated style of improvisation, with explosive riffing from both Steve's kit and Kieran's multiple sampler set-up. Another is Steve's pounding rhythmic pulse. His kick-drum anchors the sound no matter how wild things get, just as Elvin Jones' hi-hat did for Coltrane's classic quartet (Jones and Art Blakey are two of Steve's particular drum heroes). It means that wherever the audiences are coming from, whether from jazz, drum'n'bass or even Detroit techno (Kieran and Steve have been interpreting the Derrick May classic 'Strings of Life' in concert this year), they're going away happy. For the recording sessions in February 2006 Kieran prepared a set of possible departure points - samples or melodic ideas which Steve had never heard. In the case of 'Greensleeves', the initial idea came from Steve, who'd been picking through some music boxes in a shop and bought one for Kieran: ''Check it out, they had a Coltrane one!'' But all the tracks here are Steve and Kieran's instant, first-take responses to these ideas.
Though he commonly practises for three hours a day, Steve doesn't see the point of rehearsing material, or even soundchecking for too long: if something happens, the time to capture it is right then, in the moment, when it first happens. 2007 promises to be an even busier year for Kieran and Steve. A 10-date UK tour is booked for March, culminating in another show at London's Koko, to follow up on the 2005 date played with Steve Reid's full Ensemble which widely blew minds and burned the rubber off dancing feet. Remixes by Audion and James Holden will see the light of day, and the duo have a trip to Senegal planned for more recording time. In the meantime, the duo can be seen in action on Nigel Godrich's groundbreaking online music show, From the Basement.