How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The duo of Steve Baczkowski and Ravi Padmanabha has been engaging in exploratory improv for some time and the addition of master flutist Robert Dick is a stroke of genius.
A certain world-beat vibe pervades much of the disc, as it does many of Padmanabha's projects, but this is no mere new-age feel-good session. The opening track should clarify the direction from which these improvisers are coming as they create structures ranging from serene introspection to New Thing confrontation. If "Epoch" brings drone to the fore, Baczkowski's didgeridoo in full effect, "Boarding" returns to the world of free improv as Baczkowski's clarinet weaves lines and circles around Dick's Dolphy-esque flute pointillisms.
Baczkowski has grown by leaps and bounds since he came to attention with Paul Flaherty several years back. If some of the high-drama and roiling intensity has been replaced by timbral exploration and attention to delicacy of phrasing, so much the better. His art has gained subtlety, breadth and wisdom, all especially apparent and appropriate in this multi-national context.
Dick's playing itself bridges geographical gaps; in the midst of some Varese-influenced atonalities, he launches into a modal fragment, repeating it several times before just as quickly abandoning it for new territory. In this, his approach mirrors perfectly that of his comrades. The title track tells the story, sliding and lurching through percussion-heavy atmospheres with each musician so in tune with the overall texture that individual contributions become indistinguishable. This is world music as it's meant to be, flexible without compromise.