There's an inference on this Norwegian ensemble's webpage bio that its blend of free-jazz and dynamic mode of operations is the antithesis to their fellow countrymen's largely quaint or ethereal jazz output evidenced on ECM Records, for example. However, it's not that these innuendos or tenets are viewed as negatives, but the highly respected musicians comprising Atomic have been vigorously pushing the envelope since 2000.
They are restless spirits who dish out a horde of cleverly arranged tonal parameters, evidenced on the wily opener "Laterna Interfuit," where the group melds mind-bending odd-metered unison choruses with drawling extended notes. Otherwise, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten's guerilla bass lines and rip-roaring solo spots serve as an irrefutable asset to the band's agility, power and resonance.
The musicians proffer a polytonal aural feast while shrewdly breaking into sub-groups via an abundance of complex arrangements, rendered at alternating pitches and cadences. They maximize the tonal aspects of their respective instruments, by exploring understated thematic opuses or gelling to pumping grooves. But "Major," is work that highlight's reedman Fredrik Ljungkvist's sophisticated approach to compositional form, as the ensemble starts with minimalist tinkering and budding horns, leading to off-centered variants of a bluesy jazz and classical motif, outlined by Flaten and pianist Håvard Wiik's unison passages. Hence, a festive closeout counters the foreboding opening statements.
Atomic is a rare breed as the artists bridge technical expertise with densely layered pieces that gracefully and quite entertainingly, combine heady arrangements and cunning theme building activities with hearty improvisational settings. Yet the program is not overly clinical or austere, equating to a few rewarding standout factors that help elevate Lucidity to a top-shelf product.
Laterna Interfruit; A New Junction; Lucidity; Start/Stop; A MacGuffin’s Tale; Major; December.
Fredrik Ljungkvist: reeds; Magnus Broo: trumpet; Håvard Wiik: piano; Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: bass; Hans Hulbœkmo: drums.