Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid Exchange Series Vol. 1

A masterpiece! Inspired by, and perhaps even transcending, Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe's Duo Exchange, this is one of the best collaborations between an electronic improviser and an acoustic musician I've ever heard. Often the electronic player is at a natural advantage in these settings, creating and manipulating any number and variety of sound sources into a sound much bigger than their acoustic counterpart can ever achieve. The effect becomes more like an acoustic soloist playing inside a soundscape rather than an equal collaboration. This may be the aim of certain projects, but the music on this disc is a fully realised equal collaboration by both parties. Both parties start very actively; Hebden's noisy washes and rapid bass pulses mesh with Reid's chopped up and reconstituted tom, bells and cymbal patterns like a glove. Hebden brings lots of post-Coltrane "spiritual" sounding jazz licks in as genre signifiers, but once he's finished stretching and distorting them, all that's left is the energy of "energy music" completely stripped of clichés. Reid keeps a pulse but always changes it up as if he was sampling and editing himself – or maybe Hebden's the culprit. Either way, this is far beyond a call and response strategy. The entire disc rampages until about the eight-minute mark in "Electricity and Drum Will Change Your Mind," where the mood downshifts into more delicate rhythms. This disc is an achievement like Madlib's "Tribute to Brother Weldon" or the occasional Thirsty Ear release that manages to fuse improv and groove in a way that totally transcends jazz-funk. (Domino)