From day one, the collaboration between Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid was destined to produce inventive, avant-lots-of-things sounds and rhythms. Famed jazz drummer Reid is a mentor and enabler of Hebden’s notably experimental electronica. On the third album released by the tandem, Tongues, they create an atmosphere of an insect nest through highly variable electronic noises and steady, but erratic drumming. It’s a hundred music lessons in one.
What makes this album noteworthy is beyond the two names that made it. It’s because it brings the 20th-century notion of free-form experimention into the 21st century context of the ever-developing world of electronica. Throughout Tongues are reverberations, chirps, grinds, and specks of artificial noise that are all layered in such a way that it’s hard not to applaud the flagrant disregard for the over-structured electronic music that’s been dominating our modern culture. The album’s third track, "Our Time" is a loose, jungle-floor rhythm surrounded by glitches and chimes that dart in-and-out and an organ on a pendulum. The beat is steady, but employs a thousand mini-rhythms to achieve it. "Rhythm Dance" is a trance-enducing orgy of pulsing drums and haywire blips. Miles apart from the standard dancefloor fare.
Even at its most "regular", Tongues is a vast tutorial on the expansive nature of jazz as it applies to electronics. "The Sun Never Sleeps" opens the album with a semi-pop rock beat, while Hebden’s jagged knob-twisting flutters at hummingbird speed. "People Be Happy" has a splashing beat and even more stark and serious glitches. The shapes and patterns that the two create on Tongues is a full study in the eccentric avant-tronic manual.
For an interesting listen, look no further than Tongues. Hebden and Reid carve out a niche of attention-deficit electronic jazz that pushes both genres into the future. The album is wide open as far as creating stylish noise, and has futuristic detail in layers of beats. Yet another reason why this collaboration is more important then as opposed to now.