Released three years after its recording, this session offers an unusual take on free improvisation -- here cross-idiomatic much more than non-idiomatic. Versatile enough to adapt to rock, jazz, and free settings, drummer Michael Vatcher displays lots of finesse, whether he's moving small objects on top of his drums to produce quiet textures or rolling away like a madman. Vinny Golia can step away from jazz, but you cannot take the jazz out of his phrasing and lyricism. His grace at the soprano sax and clarinet and his powerful flute playing are featured here. Steuart Liebig, the conveyor of this session, is the prime mover: playing an electric E-flat contrabass guitar supplemented by electronics, he shifts constantly between thunderous distorted riffs, looped soundscapes, textures, and abstract playing, but always rooted in some form of rock music. As a result, the trio is puzzling at first, say for the duration of "Flurries," the opening track. Then, as the listener starts to grasp the scope of each player and the common ground the three musicians aim for, the music makes more sense and resonates at a deeper level. The 18-minute "Prelude" (featuring Golia on alto flute) and the eight-minute "Transit" deliver the strongest moments: nice contrasting sections, plenty of energy and listening. In comparison, the 20-minute closer, "Undertow," is uneven, its quiet middle section lacking interplay, the remainder not boasting the panache of the previous tracks. In the Cusp of Fire and Water is not an essential item from any of these artists, but it will make a nice complement for listeners who found excitement in Locustland, the CD by Liebig's group the Mentones that came out at around the same time as this one.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture