It is a well known gambit to start an album with one of its strongest tracks. But it must have been a difficult choice for Swedish band leader and saxophonist Anna Hogberg when programming her group Attack's second release. That she chose "Pappa Kom Hem," which opens with a sustained stentorian bellow from tenor saxophonist Elin Forkelid, leading to a cataclysmic free for all, announces that this is an uncompromising outfit. But the way the cut ends with the emergence of a folk-inflected anthem also carries a message, indicating that nonetheless there is still a place for well-crafted arrangements amid the fierce blowing. And so it proves across the six originals comprising Lena.
As on Attack's eponymous debut (Omlott, 2016), Högberg takes the 1960s American fire music of practitioners such as Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman as her inspiration. But what separates Attack from other like-minded Scandinavian combos, such as All Included and Friends & Neighbors, is how effectively it melds the all-out freedom with the written material. By balancing uncurbed momentum with judicious use of vamps, switching between loose unisons and unbridled polyphony and juxtaposing discreet sections of the ensemble one against another, Högberg creates powerful and engaging music, illuminated by invigorating solos from her talented crew.
Trumpeter Niklas Barno replaces saxophonist Malin Wättring in an otherwise unchanged line up. He occupies center stage on "Det Är Inter För Sent," at first in consort with a polyrhythmic stagger, laced by Lisa Ullen's prepared piano, prior to taking wing with a hoarse bluesiness. Whether jabbing in the background or hammering to the fore, Ullén adds interest and excitement throughout. And she meshes incisively with Anna Lund's percussive wit and Elsa Bergman's anchoring bass. Högberg restricts herself to just one raw, anguished outing on "Tjuv," perhaps satisfied that it is the band which serves as her real instrument.
"Dansa Margit" provides another potent contender for that opening slot, igniting in a welter of riffs and counters which unleash Forkelid's tenor, jostled by yet another probing piano undertow. The saxophonist digs into each phrase, shading with split tones, and wringing out every last gram of emotion, before alto and trumpet bicker. Finally everyone locks in, revealing the full theme in all its splendor. Similar felicities in both form and content adorn each number, making this a shoo-in for the end of year rankings.
pappa kom hem; det är inte för sent; dansa margit; tjuv; pärlemor; äntligen.
| Year Released: 2020
| Record Label: OMLOTT Records
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