With a lot more Hebden and a bit more focus this music could really sing out.
Nick Reynolds 2007
Steve Reid’s impeccable track record as a drummer in soul and jazz stretches back forty years including stints playing with Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Chaka Khan and Dionne Warwick. Most recently his quest for new ideas has led him to make music with electronic sound sculptor Kieran Hebden (best known as Four Tet).
This is their third collaboration. And this time they paid a visit to studio Dogo in Dakar in the Senegal. So the album starts with a beautiful traditional African song of welcome by Isa Kouyate on kora and vocal. The rest is a series of loose grooves with African musicians like guitarist Jimi Mbaye from Youssou N'Dour's band.
To be honest, the results are variable. The best track is "Jiggy Jiggy" which sounds like Pere Ubu's Allen Ravenstein (the master of synthesized noise) jamming with the Brand New Heavies. Hebden's squeaks, squawks and distorted electronic whistles are placed high and loud in the mix. They're refreshing new textures which bring the track to life. The brooding spirit and sound of early seventies Miles Davis hovers over "Daxaar" where a repeated motif on the Hammond organ combines with Hebden's loops, Roger Ongolo's trumpet and Reid's driving rhythms to create a trance-like, sombre, pulse. ''Dabronxxar'' is similar with its electric piano, funky shiny guitar and scratchy whirling noises.
On the other hand "Big G's Family" and "Don't Look Back" (a suitable motto for Reid's career) sound like Santana, and not in a good way. They amble along pleasantly enough without going anywhere. The playing not sharp enough or the ideas developed enough to be really compelling.
A pity. For, with a lot more Hebden and a bit more focus this music could really sing out.