Last year sometime, it was announced that electronic musician Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet) and classic jazz drummer Steve Reid had met up and were going to team up on a batch of recordings. In addition to Hebden adding some squiggles to last year's Spirit Walk by the Steve Reid Ensemble, the two stated that they'd finished not one, but two different albums worth of material together. The Exchange Session Vol. 1 is the first batch of that output, and it might not be quite what you expect.
Of course, if you've been listening to Four Tet, you know that he's been dabbling even more with free jazz and different stylings within his own music, so the three long-form workouts probably shouldn't arrive completely out of the blue. Recorded as live takes with no overdubs, the mostly amorphous tracks mainly focus on texture and rhythm, with some slight melodic loops creeping into the mix for very short periods before being overwhelmed. "Morning Prayer" opens the disc and at under seven minutes is the shortest track by a long shot. Reid builds his drumming slowly over the top of muffled flute loops, and around the middle of the track Hebden drops some more horn samples, eventually squiggling and mangling them as the track builds slightly then backs off again.
"Soul Oscillations" follows and takes much the same overall structure, with Hebden layering quiet loops while Reid meanders around on top of it before the track peaks about halfway through and rolls back down the hill again before another noisy blowout at the end. Of the tracks, "Electricity And Drum Will Change Your Mind" seems to have the most energy and focus, but after a propulsive beginning, even it seems to fall off the rails a bit. The biggest problem with the track (and the album as a whole) is that Hebden at times seems to have no real answer for the dextrous and expressive drumming of Reid other than letting loose with another blast of filtered blips and bleeps. There are moments where the two seem to sync up nicely and really unveil something beautiful and unique, but there are far too many other passages where the pairing doesn't quite seem to fully jel. Will Volume 2 be more of the same or something completely different? Here's hoping it's the latter.