Label: We Jazz Records.
When a fight breaks out in a bar some people head for the door, as others look for a pool cue and join the fray, while some watch the action from sidelines hoping that nobody will spill their drink. However, not many people having just witnessed a bar brawl decide to form a new band. That was what happened when drummer Eeti Nieminen, bassist Eero Tikkanen and saxophonist Linda Fredriksson witnessed a bar brawl in the autumn on 2009 in their native Finland. This lead to a brainstorming session, which resulted in the trio forming the Finnish punk-jazz collective Mopo who recently released their fourth album Mopocalypse on We Jazz Records. It’s the latest chapter in a remarkable story that began back in 2009.
Back in 2009, drummer Eeti Nieminen who was born in 1987, was regarded as one of the rising stars of the Finnish jazz scene and had just embarked upon a musical career. Nearly nine years, and the onetime rising star is now thirty-one year old and a talented and versatile musician who has played alongside Väärä Raha and Yona and Orkesteri Liikkuvat Pilvet. However, nowadays, much of his time is spent with the Finnish punk-jazz trio Mopo.
Just like Eeti Nieminen, his partner in Mopo’s rhythm section, bassist Eero Tikkanen was born in 1987, and is also a familiar face in Finnish jazz scene. The thirty-one year old is a veteran of many groups including Fredator, Medium, Mikko Innanen 10+ Orkesteri Liikkuvat Pilvet, The Mystic Revelation Of Teppo Repo and of course Mopo. Nowadays, Eero Tikkanen is a versatile and talented bassist who can seamlessly switch between disparate musical genres, which means he’s constantly in demand when it comes to session work. This he fits around his work with Mopo.
The third member of Mopo is saxophonist Linda Fredriksson who was born in 1985 and attended the Pop and Jazz Conservatory in 2007. After that, the thirty-three year old studied music education at the Sibelius Academy. By then, Linda Fredriksson was another of Finnish music’s rising stars and had played with various bands, including Echosystem, Medium Ricky-Tick Big Band and The Northern Governors. However, for the last nine years she’s been a member of Mopo who have been winning friends and influencing people.
In the wake of the bar brawl that resulted in Eeti Nieminen, Eero Tikkanen and Linda Fredriksson deciding to form a jazz collective together, they started thinking of a name for the nascent band. That was when some suggested Mopo, which is Finnish for a moped. This would prove ironic as Mopo, unlike its namesake, can go from zero to flat out in the space of a few bars.
That was the case from the moment Mopo made their first tentative steps onto the Finnish jazz scene. However, Mopo weren’t like many of the bands they encountered as the youthful trio played with a swagger as they incorporated punk and jazz into their genre-melting sound. This would soon prove popular and it wasn’t long before Mopo’s star was in the ascendancy.
In May 2011, Mopo entered and won the Finnish heat for the Young Nordic Jazz Comets which was one of the most prestigious events in the music calendar. It provides a showcase for young, emerging jazz bands in the Nordic countries. Later in 2011, Mopo headed to the Swedish capital Stockholm, where they were up against the creme de la creme of Nordic jazz. Although Mopo didn’t win the competition, it generated a huge amount of interest and attention in the band.
Between the ‘23rd’ and ‘26th’ of October 2011, Linda Fredriksson, Eero Tikkanen and Eeti Nieminen recorded the ten tracks at the Kallio-Kuninkala studio to record their eagerly awaited debut album Jee! When it was completed, it was scheduled for release the following year.
When Jee! was released in 2012, it showcased Mopo’s unique and inimitable sound which was an intriguing combination of punk-jazz and improv. This was the sound that made them a popular draw on Finland’s live circuit. The critics were also won over by Mopo an album of energetic hard jazz from one of the rising stars of Finnish music. Jee! was released to critical acclaim and launched Mopo’s career.
Two years later, and Mopo were back in February 2014 with their much-anticipated sophomore album Beibe. It was another eclectic release where Mopo with the help of Stina Koistinen combined fusion, improv, punk, jazz and rock to create another impressive album of genre-melting music. This time, Beibe featured a much more experimental which was different to Mopo’s debut album. The big question was how would critics react to the stylistic departure on Beibe?
When Beibe was released in February 2014, it was to the same critical acclaim as their debut album Jee! Critics embraced Mopo’s new sound and were forecasting a bright future for Mopo.
Another two years passed before Mopo returned with another album Laivalla, which was a collaboration with singer Ville Leinonen. This was a very different album to Beibe and Jee! Laivalla had fused everything from folk, jazz and pop to psychedelic rock, but in doing so, had created what was an accessible, cerebral and thought-provoking genre-melting album. When Laivalla was released in 2016, it was to plaudits and praise which pleased Mopo and Ville Leinonen.
After the release of Laivalla, work began almost immediately on Mopocalypse, and saxophonist Linda Fredriksson dawned the roll of songwriter in chief. She penned four of the eight tracks including Riisto, Ruusu, Mustafa and Sinut muistan ainiaan. The three members of Mopo joined forces with Felix Zenger to write Tökkö, while drummer Eeti Nieminen wrote Panama. Bassist Eero Tikkanen and Otto Eskelinen wrote Noita, while Niin aikaisin is a traditional song that Mopo arranged. These eight songs were recorded during a series of sessions.
Recording began on the ‘8th’ of September 2016 at Ambience Studio, and restarted in March 2017 at Magnusborg Studio with Mopo and Matti Nives taking charge of production. Once the album was recorded, six of the tracks were edited and mixed by Joonas Saikkonen, while Abdissa ”Mamba” Assefa was responsible for Niin aikaisin and Sinut muistan ainiaan. This left just Pauli Saastamoinen to master the album at Finnvox, which Mopo decided to dip into the Urbandictionary and call the album Mopocalypse, which is typical of the band’s humour.
Mopocalypse is a glorious album of swaggering, high energy hard jazz which features Mopo at their tightest on an album that isn’t as experimental as Beibe. Instead, Mopocalypse has more in common with their debut alum Jee! However, there’s no way that Mopo would make the same album twice and use Jee! and parts of Beibe as building blocks for Mopocalypse. In doing so, Mopo combine elements of punk-jazz and improv with their hard rocking brand of jazz. Sometimes, Mopo showcase a funky jazz and vintage jazz sounds, but mostly they concentrate on their trademark sound and hit the ground running on Mopocalypse.
Straight away, it’s as if Mopo are determined to reach new heights on the album opener Tökkö, which is one of two tracks where Eero Tikkanen switches to an older electric bass and joins forces with drummer Eeti Nieminen to anchor the arrangement. Meanwhile, bursts and stabs of Linda Fredriksson’s rasping saxophone punctuate the arrangement as Mopo become Finnish jazz’s equivalent to The Clash.
There’s no let-up as Riisto bursts into life and Linda Fredriksson’s growling saxophone carries the melody before machine bursts signal the entrance of bassist Eero Tikkanen. After enjoying his moment in the sun, Linda Fredriksson’s saxophone is played with speed and power before becoming sultry and melodic. Soon, she’s playing with the same speed and power as the track reaches a crescendo.
A droning saxophone marches to the beat of the drum on Ruusu, before a scampering bass becomes the advance party for the heart-wrenching, rueful sound of Linda Fredriksson’s saxophone. She drops out, leaving the coast clear for Eero Tikkanen’s bass solo on this understated sound that harks back to vintage jazz. Soon, the rest of Mopo is marching to the beat of the drum on a track that shows another side to the punk-jazz pioneers.
Lolling drums and a meandering bass provide an a spartan atmospheric backdrop for Linda Fredriksson’s beautiful sultry saxophone on Mustafa. She plays a starring role, and later plays with power, control and a fluidity while the rest of Mopo continue to provide an understated backdrop for one of Linda Fredriksson’s finest hours as a member of Mopo.
The understated backdrop is present on Niin aikaisin where saxophonist Linda Fredriksson eschews power and plays within herself for much of this beautiful track. Later, she plays with power and emotion and her saxophone soars high above the arrangement, before cymbals crash as one of the highlights of Mopocalypse draws to a close.
From the opening bars of Sinut muistan ainiaan (You, I’ll Remember Always) beauty is omnipresent, as Linda Fredriksson’s rasping saxophone is accompanied by an understated rhythm section. Later, as the saxophone drops out, the double bass in played with a bow, and sometimes, this adds a more experimental sound. Mostly, it’s vintage jazz especially as the saxophone returns and another soul-baring solo tugs on this wistful track at the heartstrings.
Initially, Noita (Witch) is quite different to what’s gone before as a muted bass gives way to squirts of insistent Farfisa organ before the saxophone enters and is played briskly. It’s accompanied by eerie, otherworldly sounds as the arrangement becomes eerie, cinematic and urgent thanks to the saxophone. Sometimes, as it rasps and growls it’s as if Linda Fredriksson is following in the free jazz pioneers and overblowing her saxophone to add a new dimension to the track. This works as earlier cinematic sound becomes an innovative free jazz workout where Mopo push musical boundaries.
Panama closes Mopocalypse and finds the rhythm section locking into a tight groove before Linda Fredriksson’s wistful saxophone ebbs and flows across the arrangement. Later it becomes sultry and mesmeric as the talented rhythm section never miss a beat. Meanwhile, the saxophone rises and falls before fluttering and quiver as Linda Fredriksson showcases her considerable skill one last time, as Mopo at their tightest close the album on high.
On Mopocalypse which was recently released by We Jazz Records, Mopo reach new heights on their fourth album, which is a career defining album. Everything has been building up to Mopocalypse since the band was formed nearly nine years ago. Four albums later, and Mopo have gone from rising stars of the Finnish jazz scene to the finished article.
Mopo also showcase their versatility on Mopocalypse, which is another eclectic album from the talented trio. Mopocalypse also features the different sides of Mopo. Their trademark jazz-punk sound is present as improv and sometimes, the music becomes raunchy and hard rocking brand of jazz. Other times, Mopo’s jazzy sound becomes funky, while other times it’s as if they’re travelling back in time as they play a vintage jazz sound. However, occasionally Mopo throws a curveball and vintage jazz gives way to free jazz as genres melt into one. Not every band is capable of doing this, but Mopo aren’t just any band.
Instead, Mopo which features three truly talented musicians are one of the leading lights of the Finnish jazz scene, and with every album their genre-melting music reaches a wider audience. Mopo who have been winning friends and influencing Finnish music fans for nearly nine years, have introduced a new and younger audience to jazz with their memorable live shows and their four albums. This includes Mopo’s latest and greatest album Mopocalypse, which is career-defining opus where the talented Finnish trio reach new heights and set the bar high for future albums.