In a wily two-headed beast of a show, part English beat-boy, part longhaired fringe collective, there's a high potential for stretching the brain and eardrums in the best possible way. Four Tet, aka Londoner Kieran Hebden, grew up in various rock bands, working in the leftfield vein, with friends as Fridge. Gaining notoriety during the heyday of the vacuous term "post-rock," these were explorations that touched on the interaction between rock's structure and the rhythms of electronica. Fast forward a few years and Hebden turns up cutting up live drum samples and off he goes as Four Tet, turning the heads of fans like Radiohead. Symphonic strings mix with natural percussion sounds with clean precise production.
Precise may not be the first word that comes to mind when discussing Massachusetts-based Sunburned Hand of the Man, but that's a very good thing. Ingesting the spirit of '60s improvisation, through both free jazz and in American and European rock bands, this loose collective work in the moment of fire, when improv can sparkle or go dull as an old axe blade. With a large group, eleven strong for this tour, propelling a faraway groove via instruments like hand drums, odd horns, accompanied by chanting, their outsider music is more akin to starry-eyed tribal ceremonies than rock band noodling. And when their slow build erupts, they shine bright like communal disciples of free jazz prophet Sun Ra. It's this synthesis of the old world and the unknown that caused British mag The Wire to call them part of a musical sub-subgenre "New Weird America." Of course, seeing them live is the best way to experience such a group. The hell with jam bands; these guys are the real way out.
Four Tet with Sunburned Hand of the Man is at Go! Studios, Wednesday, April 21, 9 p.m. $8 advance, $10 at door. For more information, call 969-1400.