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There’s no telling where the music will go on this album of beautifully surreal performances by percussionist-composer Ches Smith’s finely attuned quartet. His trio with pianist Craig Taborn and violist Mat Maneri is joined by guitarist Bill Frisell in a quartet that displays collective empathy of the highest order. It’s one of those bands where no one seems to be leading but everyone is moving in the same direction, and the distinctions between composition and improvisation just don’t matter. Every track makes you marvel at how they get from one point to another. For instance, the title track opens with Smith’s rippling vibraphone phrases punctuated by short injections from the rest of the band. It’s like sitting next to a brook and listening to the sounds in the forest around you. But in a slow, rambling crescendo, the pastoral quietude gives way to a great billowing guitar solo over a churning undertow of drums. “Mixed Metaphor” opens with Frisell’s lonesome guitar washed over by translucent tone colors from vibes and viola. A delicate duet between Maneri and Frisell is followed by a gentle rain of staccato notes from Taborn and Smith on vibes. Then an African-flavored groove slowly insinuates itself in the music, unleashing some of Maneri and Taborn’s most impassioned playing on the album. Dense, energetic collective improvisation opens “Clear Major,” but the music eventually wends its way into some of the album’s most lyrical passages. This is a disc that invites you to listen as closely as the players themselves, and rewards you with ravishing, unpredictable, ambiguous and big-hearted music. — Ed Hazell