Consider this not a step into the shallow end of the pool of contemporary improvised music, but a brief way about its circumference, mostly geographically and a little historically. Highly subjective, of course, not only to the vagaries of my taste, but the limits of my budget:
Poire_z - Poire_z (For Four Ears)
Dafeldecker/Kurzmann/Fennesz/O'Rourke/Drumm/Siewert- Dafeldecker/Kurzmann/Fennesz/O'Rourke/Drumm/Siewert (Charizma)
I consider these two cds my introductions to this community. The first poire_z albums and the "Orange" cd on Charizma were some of the first things I heard (after AMM) that dissolved the boundaries between the solo instrumental voice and larger field of sound. Low velocity electronics on both, with the latter colorful, and lush, and former more tense and brooding.
Polwechsel - 2 (HatArt)
nmperign - nmperign (Selektion)
Polwechsel and nmperign both explore the austere, spare and crystalline structures of improvised music. Both ensembles utilize very distinct and clear qualities of line, with Polwechsel moving through composed spaces, and nmperign fluid and amorphous ones. It no longer makes sense to refer to what any of the musicians in either of these ensembles does as "extended technique." On these records, it seems like there's nothing from which their styles deviate, so naturally do the musicians articulate through the sounds.
MIMEO/Tilbury - The Hands of Caravaggio (Erstwhile)
Toshimaru Nakamura/Keith Rowe- Weather Sky (Erstwhile)
These two are serious and often grave works that approach the weighty from divergent circumstances. The MIMEO/Tilbury is structured as a piano concerto, and as such encompasses a vast number of instrumental colors and textures. Yet, occasionally the members of the collective lose their individual identities (or one loses track of them) and they all blur into a totality. On the other hand, the Rowe and Nakamura is a singular blur. As opposed to the multitude of MIMEO that distills into a collective voice by the end, Rowe and Nakamura start from homogeneity and through the ongoing accumulation of these moments in one's head, eventually they reach an internal resonant frequency and these two voices burst into a multiplicity of many.