Through avenues of lights, accompanied loneliness, lonely accompaniments, musical exhortations and tremulous lulling, Atomic introduce their latest opus in typically defiant form. The album assembles the various Atomic components in a thoroughly recognizable yet surprising (and sometimes disconcerting) way, suggesting multiple time signatures, motifs and submotifs, musical tracery that seems to defy explanation in conventional terms.
They take moments of minimalist simplicity and contextualize them, by turns, in amorphous textures, angular musical structures, whimsical interplays and rushes of driving frenzy. A track might swing in on muscular arms from the highest reaches of the jungle canopy, bedecked in its finest groove, before shedding its ape suit to reveal something altogether more ethereal.
They seem to hurtle in freefall spirals, before raising merry hell with free improvisations, looping and diving amid each other's vapour trails, and managing to recalibrate simultaneously their alignment and launch into the next composed passage without batting an eyelid.
If you ever wondered what synchronized swimming among man-eating sharks might sound like, this is probably as close as you'll ever get.
For all the oomph and swagger, there are moments of fragile beauty in there, too. Wiik's piano lines sometimes seem eggshell thin amid the hubbub, yet they remain solid, unbuckled. As anyone familiar would expect, the solos are of top quality, made of thought processes long-aged and matured in the uniquely flavoursome Atomic cask.
Newly-arrived Hans Hulbœkmo more than ably batters and rattles in Paal Nilssen-Love's stead, displaying a similar, yet personally signed, technique. Caps must be doffed to any musician who can even be passable within a unit with near-psychic communication skills as Atomic have always seemed to possess: Hulbœkmo already feels as though he has always been there.
Wiik and Ljungkvist (as has become the norm over the past number of years) provide the compositional frameworks for the group's inventiveness and sheer authenticity to be placed on full display. While this album may have a touch more shadow than usual, the trademark mercurial wit remains intact, with knowing echoes, paraphrases and quotations popping up here and there, archness romping through disquieting musical turns of phrase, while unfettered sincerity warms the heart of oblique passages elsewhere.
"Atomic's ability to renew itself seems limitless, as though each step of its path to date has been as fresh as the one before it. With each new release they demonstrate their will to outdistance, outshine, outfox, outclass and outmaneuver their past work. All signs point onwards and upwards." - Davesplacemusic.com