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Tongues 

Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid

The Deal: Improvisational pieces from cut-and-paste maestro and jazz drum legend.

The Good: The free-form collaborations between the multi-sampler set-up of Four Tet's Kieran Hebden and legendary jazz drummer Steve Reid marry two musical worlds that might seem incompatible: avant-garde jazz and processed electronica. Relying on shorter improvisations than their two previous Exchange Sessions, Hebden and Reid create tighter and more melodic pastiches on Tongues. Reid's first-take responses to Hebden's multi-layered outlines buzz with ideas, sometimes sounding like drum n' bass experiments gone mad or '70s free jazz run through random computer programs. Hebden's sampled sounds run the gamut from elegant harps and warm guitar lines to cyclical buzzes, bleeps, washes, sirens and all manner of other machine sounds. Reid's kick-drum is the anchor, and his polyrhythmic attack -- honed while playing with free jazz giants likes of Archie Shepp and Sam Rivers, as well as Fela Kuti -- creates both internal logic and dynamic tension. This is especially true on longer cuts "The Sun Never Sets" and "Rhythm Dance," where the six-minute compositions develop a variety of moods and textures.

The Bad: Shorter tracks like "Mirrors" and an ill-advised re-interpretation of "Greensleeves" lack the ebb-and-flow or warm dialogue of memorable improv. Hebden crams ideas into every nook and cranny so it sounds like a big band of improvisers, but without enough space to discern one from another.

The Verdict: If you enjoy a Lewis & Clark approach in your music, pack your bags for the adventure. If not, don't bother.

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