***** Anchored by two 18-minute pieces and filled with atmospheric resonance and meditative movements, Continuation is not a listening experience that can be rushed, but what a satisfying and varied journey Alex Cline and his four collaborators take you on. Word of "atmospheric" recordings tends to push potential listeners in one of two directions, but whatever side of the ledger you fall on, you're likely to make the supposition that the recording will have much scraping of strings, sawing at cymbal edges and disregard for time. Cline throws those assumtions overboard. Just when you get comfortable with the long, acidic tones from Jeff Gauthier's violin and Peggy Lee's cello on "On The Bones of the Homegoing Thunder," the piece explodes with the entrance of a hard-swinging piano trio, with Myra Melford whipping around the keyboard with tight flurries of notes and Cline and bassist Scott Walton riding madly behind her. The composition continues to unfold in stages, raising and lowering the temperature as it goes.
The other long piece - written to accompany a pair of Japanese dancers - is also filled with movement and sweeping geestures, highlighted by a beautiful section with Gauthier and Lee sliding together and apaprt. Lee is also engaging on "Nourishing Our Roots," the dark cry and rasp of her instrument in contrast with the exceptionally dense tone of Walton's bass, and on "Open Hands" - the most straightforwardly reflective piece on the recording.
Melford, though, grabs your ear time and again, whether with her minimalist piano on "Fade To Green," her rhapsodic soloing on "Steadfast" or, especially through the effective use of her harmonium - as an additional textural element and as an evocative melodic lead on "Clearing Our Streams." Moving from dramatic solo bass to an ancient-sounding anthemic ensemble, that composition best defines Cline's sense of evocative mood setting. -James Hale