Anna Högberg Attack: lena

Samuel Stroup By

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Anna Högberg Attack: lena
There are moments of lena, the sophomore release from Swedish group Attack, which feel as though the ensemble is as much punk band as it is jazz sextet. Under the leadership of alto saxophonist Anna Hogberg, the group plays loud and fast free jazz which is as stylish as it is raucous. Even the monochrome album art and absence of capitalized song titles reflect the album's mood, energetic and effortless.

lena's six Högberg-penned tracks revisit the style of Attack's eponymous 2016 debut. At their core, the compositions often feature triple-stacked harmonies played by the horns, as the piano trio beneath them cultivates energy through uninhibited improvisation. The sextet sees one lineup change on lena, swapping a saxophone for a trumpet played by Niklas Barno, who feels right at home in the group, lyrical one moment and textural the next.

The album's opener "pappa kom hem" acts not only as something of a topic sentence for the album, but also tells a story. It begins with an unaccompanied, abrasive solo from Högberg, who is subsequently joined by Bärno and saxophonist Elin Forkelind. Pianist Lisa Ullen, bassist Elsa Bergman, and drummer Anna Lund are quick to join in. The minutes which follow find order in their chaos. The rhythm section play as though they are rioting in the street, while the wind players' short blasts and exclamations at once sound like ambulance sirens and the yells of an angry crowd. Not until the last forty seconds of the song does the glorious, Albert Ayler-esque melody emerge from the din, navigating the turbulent tune to a close.

Track 2, "det är inte för sent," is a meandering ballad, but not the kind that rocks you to sleep. Lund's ominous and steady backbeat on the bells of her cymbals gives the piece a sense of dread. In fact, the nuance and texture which abound in Lund's playing are key in shaping the sounds and moods of lena. Her drumming, excited yet gestural, gives a sense of tempo to the often meterless music. She makes frequent use of gongs and other percussive elements which seem to act as sound effects. Her touch brings a delightful element of tactility to the album.

Everyone gets a chance to shine on lena's 10-minute epic "tjuv," and Ullén is no exception. She tirelessly puts her chops and range to captivating use in the solo that opens the piece, alongside Lund and Bergman's tastefully busy accompaniment.

But, beyond each musician's individual moments of virtue, the ultimate success of this record is how well Anna Högberg Attack functions as a band. The musicians improvise remarkably well together, each member exploring tumultuous territory with their bandmates. But Högberg's group is also unafraid to bask in moments of melody, texture, and grooviness. Despite the 'out' playing that this album showcases, the music remains accessible. The group brings the voices of its members together, and the result is compelling, unique, and exceedingly hip. To put it bluntly, it rocks.

Track Listing

pappa kom hem; det är inte för sent; dansa margit; tjuv; pärlemor; äntligen.


Anna Hogberg: saxophone, alto; Elin Forkelid: saxophone, tenor; Niklas Barno: trumpet; Lisa Ullen: piano; Elsa Bergman: bass, acoustic; Anna Lund: drums.

Album information

Title: lena | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: OMLOTT Records

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