The flow (or riverrun) of Atomic recordings has been a steadfast feature of the Jazzland Recordings catalogue, and Atomic have clearly expressed a will to climb to greater heights, with each new release breaking new ground. Here Comes Everybody, their latest addition, is possibly their most headstrong and challenging ever. The compositional credit for the seven tracks is split 4 to 3 between Håvard Wiik and Fredrik Ljungkvist respectively, although the heart of the collective enterprise is such that the whole sound is pure Atomic from beginning to end, with jagged arrangements, epileptic rhythms and fastswitching harmonies.
The musical complexity is not about bravado as much as it is about a mercurial dancing wit and harmonic carnivalesque energy. Echoing the James Joyce novel, Finnegans Wake, from which the title is derived, HCE (Here Comes Everybody) (Wiik) operates within a musical dream language - this is jazz surrealism, dream theory in Scandinavia. Motifs jostle back and forth, transforming into new shapes and eachother, before restating themselves again.
Milano (Ljungkvist) follows suit, chattering, babbling and skipping along, suddenly moving in a gentle plod, and then springing off again into music that bristles with hardcore creative electricity. The music flirts with the deranged outskirts of free jazz, but the tightly defined structures make it seem like impossible architecture, like an Escher drawing, filled with hovering chromatic edifices.
Kreuzberg Variations (Wiik) gently move through sculpted obelisks of sound and melody, oblique, and yet has captivating and evocative qualities, a living proof of the ingenuity of the whole Atomic project. Melodies hop and cross eachother, tracing hows, whys, blackbooks, and biotopes and urban topias that are like musical emanations from the eponymous Berlin borough through granular cityscapes across the world, side to side.
Morphemes (Wiik) makes multiple declarations of possible intent, adheres to all and none, and somehow becomes its own self-contained jazz style, referencing everything from rhumba to bebop to free jazz along the way, and gives Paal Nilsen-Love the opportunity to craft a remarkable percussive passage (not a drum solo in any conventional sense).
Panama (Ljungkvist) once again takes the stuttering structures of its predecessors, but this time follows a deconstructed mambo format, briefly sounding as though it might take on that familiar shape at any moment, but instead weaves a heady and exotic boogaloo theme through a North African souk before arriving in a Chicago speakeasy. Fredrik Ljungkvist's solo flows like smooth bourbon over the clublike chatter between restatements of the head theme. He is closely followed by Magnus Broo's equally melifluous tones playing into a harmonic variation and lilting paraphrase of the secondary theme.
Upflog (Ljungkvist) feels like the musical equivalent of watching moths fluttering between darkness and a streetlamp beam. Wiik's moody playing in conjunction with Håker Flaten's bowed bass, and Broo's sparkling bursts of trumpet, sometimes brief squeals, intertwined with Ljungkvist's sax make for an eccentric sonic painting akin to a Joan Miró piece.
Unity Toccata (Wiik) begins in a kind of musical desolation, as though it is emerging from the debris of a post-nuclear holocaust, contemplative of its surroundings as it searches for a way through. The way soon arrives, and Atomic move through the piece like a band of survivors, shaken but undeterred. Each "movement" feels like a discovery rather than a planned stop on a mapped route, as though they have uncovered it in the rubble and detritus. As always, the inimitable driving force of Flaten and Nilsen-Love underpins some fantastic soloing and counterpoints by Broo, Ljungkvist and Wiik.
The playful spirit that deftly weaves through every Atomic performance from Feet Music onwards has constantly evolved, and Here Comes Everybody stands as their greatest achievement to date.