Animato is not so much John Abercrombie's date simply because his name is listed first alphabetically. It is much more the music of Vince Mendoza, who composed six of the eight selections, and whose work on synthesizer is the dominant voice on this set of ethereal progressive instrumental music. Drummer Jon Christensen takes no backseat in urging the music forward with a subtle presence that represents a distinct primal and tribal jazz element. What electric guitarist Abercrombie does is link with Mendoza, merging his own synthesized blends of earth, sky and space to create beautiful textures and soundscapes in tandem with Mendoza's conceptual arrangements and expanded color palates. In "First Light" and "Last Light," the trio has touched on a theoretical circadian cycle, beginning in darkness, peace, serenity, and quietude, merging to darting guitar lines, bright steel drum samples, complex and dense activity, with Christensen's drum work a steadying and balanced influence. There's a hymnal quality in the airy "Single Moon" and the thin, dim "For Hope of Hope" with Mendoza's organ assimilations. "Right Now" is a space spiritual sped into animated bop mode with just Abercrombie's spare guitar and Christensen's fleet Euro swing, while "Ollie Mention" is a little waltz with tiny notes, the most tuneful of these pieces, with Mendoza's keyboards traipsing in dark, sacred, enchanted woodlands. Whooshing, vortex sounds akin to the Fairlight synthesizer identify the core of Abercrombie's lone composition in a somewhat playful fashion, while "Agitato" is clearly nestled in the new age style, a minimalist piece with hard drum accents buoying Abercrombie's individualist hypothesis. An unusual but beautiful item in John Abercrombie's discography, and a coming out for Mendoza, Animato signals a different direction for the ECM label, enabling electronic sounds in a way they had never fully embraced prior.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos