Michael Snow, Alan Licht, and Aki Onda had performed as a trio only a couple of times prior to their appearance at the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (where most of this CD was recorded). And it shows: the element of surprise improvisers feed on in a "first meeting" has mostly vanished, yet the trio has not yet built the confidence and telepathy you can find in established groupings. This album (the full title of which is Five A's, Two C's, One D, One E, Two H's, Three I's, One K, Three L's, One M, Three N's, Two O's, One S, One T, One W) captures the trio in that difficult position in between. The music -- demanding electro-acoustic improv -- does not quite coalesce; there are moments of strange beauty, but also long awkward passages where ideas are tried and ditched, connection attempts fail, and the listener's patience gets tested. Of the FIMAV set, the 33-minute "Allorolla" represents the part when Snow played a CAT synthesizer (mostly). He also played a lot of piano (heard shortly at the beginning and very end of the track), but that didn't go as well with Licht's effect-drenched electric guitar and Onda's antiquated cassettes. Indeed, the moments where the three musicians seem to be working together the most -- and in the same direction -- are these all-electronic episodes of noisy texture-building. Something similar happens on "Doo Rain," a 15-minute piece taken from a concert in Toronto seven months earlier. This lineup certainly has something to offer, as all three musicians are accomplished in their own right and singular to say the least, not to mention the generation factor that could have played for the trio, but styles and sounds clash more than they mesh on this album.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture