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Atomic: Retrograde

Lloyd N. Peterson Jr. By

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Every time I have the opportunity to attend a performance by Atomic, I find myself asking, how does a band this dynamic and creative miss the radar on so many different media and industry levels? If the Miles Davis Quintet with Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and

Herbie Hancock could have rocked, they would have been the brilliant and ass-kicking Atomic. If they were from New York, my peers would be drooling at the opportunity to discover the arrival of this modern-day phenomena. Regardless, it cannot alter the fact that the creative axis is shifting, and a large percentage of the most interesting and exciting creative music happening in the world today is coming from Europe.

Fearless and precise in their execution, Atomic has formed a group identity from the troughs of previous American and European traditions, with an eye towards the improvisational unknown. If that sounds rebellious, it is, but when it comes to creativity, that's not a bad place to be. Magnus Broo, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten, Fredrik Ljungkvist, Paal Nilssen-Love and Håvard Wiik all share in the writing of the compositions, which consistently reflects a compelling and brilliant creative vision. When performed live, their music produces a powerful rhythmic energy that can be both exhilarating and sophisticated, all at the same time. That's a lot to live up to, but Atomic is that good.

We live during a time when those with lesser creative standards are rewarded unjustly, while quality in art is without acceptance and looked upon without meaning. But this group of creative musicians has an inherent intellectual passion along with a unique understanding of the extraordinary complexity that can evolve within music. Each individual brings a fresh reservoir of ideas to the collective, but with indiscriminate integrity in their creative ideas. They remain unpredictable yet accessible, elusive yet captivating, adventurous but with ferocity and precision.

Yet there is another facet that distinguishes the artist from the musician, and it is an important one. For the artist doesn't work from the answers of the past but is more concerned with the questions, in the search itself. And that search includes one of intense conviction and humility in the pursuit of artistic discoveries. We only have to listen.

Read John Kelman's review of Retrograde.

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