The energy the quintet muster here is remarkable, but it’s energy devoted to...
Peter Marsh 2002
Keith Jarrett (on his anti electric crusade) once remarked that electricity flows through all of us and shouldnt be relegated to wires. If thats true, this Norwegian quintet could probably generate enough to power most of Oslo for a week or two with a single gig. While many of their fellow artists on Jazzland power up their samplers, Atomic stay unplugged; digital here means using your fingers.
Its hard to pin down Atomic's influences, which is no bad thing; while hints of bop, free jazz and ECM-esque balladry surface throughout, there are few direct influences discernible, though trumpeter Magnus Broo pulls off a pretty good Don Cherry on the opening "Nära Grensen". What's certain is that there's a subtler brand of innovation than that normally found on Jazzland; there's no nu-jazz fusioneering going on here.
Throughout solos are kept short and sweet, with Broo's trumpet and Frederik Ljundqvist'ssaxophones emerging from the arrangements rather than taking long solos in turn. Both horns shine on the lovely "Longing for Martin", with Ljundqvist's affecting, airily nimble tenorfollowed by a majestically lyrical outing from Broo. Havard Wiik's piano is crucial throughout; his spare, unfussy chording recalls the economy of Monk or Herbie Nichols, while his solos are logical, melodic and direct. His composition "Psalm" is a showcase for a performance of simple, unforced beauty. A name to watch.
At the other end of the Richter scale, "Do it" features a nagging horn riff underpinned by a greasily funky bassline and a restless, smoulderingly propulsive groove from drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, whose subdivisions of the beat and tiny accelerations and decelerations tickle the willing listeners synapses quite comprehensively. In other words, he, er, rocks. Likewise on the catchy "Fifth Circle", his snare detonations push Ljundvist's soprano lines into new shapes.
The energy the quintet muster throughout is remarkable, but its energy devoted to listening as much as playing, which explains the absence of free jazz blowout or 900 mph solos. The unfussy live recording is a wee bit rough round the edges; no ECM reverb, just the sound of five musicians doing their thing. Quite brilliant.
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