The idea behind Atavistic's Out Trios series appears to be a sound one. Put three compatible improvisers in a room, turn on the machines, and let 'em rip.Now although these particular artists don't play together frequently, they share skills on the highest level. They listen and respond to each other so quickly it's frightening, and they respond spontaneously with complementary colors. What's more, they cross genres as easily as the rest of us cross the street; they even make the occasional crash sound good.
Pick any one of the three, at any point in time. Tom Rainey is ridiculous throughout these procedings. A few seemingly random taps on a drum head imply more obvious structures a few bars down the road. Likewise, a repeated pattern creates momentary stability for his cohorts to take off from. He never locks into a groove for an extended period; there's always a door open at the end of the corridor.Andrea Parkins is known for her unique collection of keyboards—accordion, acoustic piano, analog synths, and laptop—but it's her taste in applying them that causes jaws to drop. On one tune, she references barrelhouse piano, while on another, she provides digital cloud cover for her companions to play under.Nels Cline avoids his standard approaches for the most part, delivering some of his most effective, off-the-wall playing captured on record. One moment, he's sending up S.O.S. signals in an electrical storm; another, he creates the sound of a swamp at twilight, though I think it's Parkins supplying the alligators.
Considered as a totality, this is strange, evocative stuff. "Ruination" begins with a suggestion of impending dentistry inside Godzilla's mouth, while "Alleys of North America" manages to find its way back to its aching piano intro after spending much time in deep space. These three musicians all have substantial discographies at this point, but this album rates near the top of any list of their recorded achievements. Michael Davis
Tom Rainey - drums
Andrea Parkins - accordion, effects, piano, electric keyboards, laptop samples
Nels Cline - guitar, effects
Released by Atavistic in 2004 as Out Trios vol. 3.