Label: Odin Records.
Release Date: ‘22nd’ March 2019.
Eighteen years ago, Scandinavian supergroup Atomic was founded by Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo and his fellow countryman and reed player Fredrik Ljungkvist who joined forces with Norwegian pianist Håvard Wiik, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. By then, each musician was a familiar face in their own country, but hoped that with their new group Atomic their music would find a wider audience.
That proved to be the case for the next fourteen years, as commercial success and critical acclaim came the way of Atomic. However, in 2014, drummer Nilssen-Love left the band, and was replaced by fellow Norwegian Hans Hulbækmo. Despite the change in the lineup, the Atomic success story continued.
Part of Atomic’s success was based upon rejecting the traditional Scandinavian sound which was what was expected of Norwegian and Swedish bands as the new millennium dawned. This style had emerged in the late-eighties, and its architect was ECM label founder Manfred Eicher. He saw the Scandinavian sound as an alternate to the tradition American jazz sound, and especially the African-American jazz. The Scandinavian sound favoured the ascetic approach, and the new music often borrowed harmolodic motifs from Scandinavian folk music. Initially, the Scandinavian sound was regarded as fresh and innovative, but as the new millennia dawned that was no longer the case, and was starting to sound jaded and predictable. Atomic decided to reject the Scandinavian sound.
Instead, they embraced the American tradition which had inspired them, and used it as an important part of their sound. This was apparent on their 2001 debut album Feet Music which was released to plaudits and praise. So was their eagerly anticipated sophomore album Boom Boom, which was released in 2003, and by then, Atomic had taken Scandinavian jazz by storm and their music had found an audience much further afield. This was the start of the rise and rise of Atomic, who musically were free spirits who were determined to plough their own furrow.
To do this, Atomic rejected the idea that hot jazz and conservatoire sensibilities were incompatible. They’re clearly not, and play a part in Atomic’s genre-melting sound which has been clearly been influenced by modernist composers like Edgard Varese who has influenced and inspired Fredrik Ljungkvist and Håvard Wiik, who write the majority of the band’s material. Not on Pet Variations
Since the release of Feet Music in 2001, Atomic have been a prolific group whose fourteen album Pet Variations will be released by Odin Records on the ‘22nd’ March 2019. It’s Atomic’s first cover’s album and unlike similar offerings by lesser bands, here the Scandinavian supergroup make every track their own. This is quite remarkable given how different each track is.
Pet Variations features an eclectic selection of tracks and Håvard Wiik says:“We didn’t think about genre when we made the choices. We just brought in music that we felt would fit the group’s sound. But I thought it would be good to have broad variety in the repertoire so that it naturally went in different directions.” This Atomic do on each and every track.
This ranges from Håvard Wiik’s Pet Variations which gives way yo
Pet Sounds which was written by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys during the most creative and inspired period of his career. After that, Atomic cover tracks from composers who range from jazz to contemporary classical. Still though, Atomic cope with Messiaen’s Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus. Varese Un Grand Sommeil Noi, Then there’s Steve Lacy’s Art, Alexander von Schlippenbach’s Inri, Jimmy Giuffre’s Cry Want, Carla Bley’s Walking Woman and Jan Garbarek’s Karin’s Mode which closes the album on a resounding high. Other highlights includes the lyrical Art, Varese’s mystical and ethereal Un Grand Sommeil Noir and a stunning rendition of Walking Woman. Add to this the twin delights of Pet Variations and Inri and Every track is a delight and part of a majestic musical adventure and a celebration of Atomic at the peak of their powers.