Crater rolls with it in Berkeley.

Scott Amendola doesn't just play improv -- he lives it. For example, the lauded percussionist didn't blink when a certain Express reporter didn't have the telephone mic plugged into the correct hole on her tape recorder during their interview. He just did a second interview -- this one while driving to a lunch date. This dedication to the art of impulse is at the heart of Crater, a group that exists in performance as a kind of big, evolving sculpture, no matter who the core trio of Amendola, bassist Todd Sickafoose, and laptop savant JHNO (aka John Eichenseer) is collaborating with. One can imagine that if the audience started lobbing produce at the band, the musicians'd work that into the groove, too.

Not that Amendola doesn't have high standards as to who he'll work with. "JHNO is a piano player and he's coming from a jazz background," he says, "so he's a really great improviser. He can relate to improvising the way the rest of the band does, so the interaction is on a level playing field." Not to mention that he works with software he wrote himself, a program called Radial. The version that JHNO uses, however, is an entirely different animal than the one you can buy, an ever-evolving mechanism that he often works on till the wee hours.

The band has collaborated with guitarists Nels Cline, Will Bernard, Jeff Parker, and Avi Bortnick; violinist Carla Kihlstedt; and Los Angeles artist Carol Kim, whose live manipulations of hanging, colored glass and other assorted objects were a perfect match for Crater's sound at shows in Santa Cruz and Stanford last year. When the band performs this Thursday night at the Jazz House (3192 Adeline St., Berkeley), it will be as a trio, but worry not. The spontaneous soundscapes -- sometimes aggressive, usually ambient, often psychedelic -- will still be thick with texture and surprise. In addition to JHNO's not-so-simple machines, Amendola also uses a pedal board with samples and loops, and Sickafoose has effects, too, "So sometimes with Crater," Amendola says, "you're hearing all this sound, and you have no idea where it's coming from." Info: 415-846-9432.


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