Describing music as being like Chinese water torture usually isn’t a good thing, but in the case of NYC, the fourth collaboration between Four Tet’s Hebden and classic jazz drummer Reid, conventional wisdom is turned on its head. This the six-track, 42-minute album builds and builds, each song being allowed to gain in momentum and menace until it’s front of house, banging into your cranium without a by-your-leave.
Opener -Lyman Palace’ sets the tone, a subaquatic bass rumble surreptitiously working its way into your subconscious, while the mood gets more alarming by the minute. Instrumental it may be, but background music it certainly isn’t, thanks to Reid’s insistent rhythms and Hebden’s edge-of-terror drone soundscapes. If this was to soundtrack a film, it’d have to be a high octane combination of The French Connection and Bullitt, possibly with Terminator-like androids replacing Hackman and McQueen.
Ostensibly a concept album about Reid’s home city, NYC certainly captures the energy and often manic nature of the Big Apple: at times, synths sluice in like ambulance sirens, while elsewhere, the funky jazz beats seem to take us back to the ’70s (-1st & 1st’), there’s the monumental -Arrival’, the playful -Between B & C’ and the unsettling electronica of -Departure’. Certainly not easy listening, then, but often well worth the work.