Atomic thrives on freedom
Despite on-line reports that the Scandinavian improv quintet Atomic has been playing vintage video footage of Miles Davis during its North American appearances, that’s not entirely accurate. True, a review posted on the band’s own Web site ( www.atomicjazz.com/ ) says this was the case at a recent New York City concert, but according to drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, it’s not going to happen again. Nor, he says, does his band have any claim on the dark magus’s crown.
“No no no no no!” says the amused but agitated percussionist, reached on bassist Ingebrigt Hí¥ker Flaten’s cellphone during a Chicago tour stop. “That was just this one club that had that thing going. I don’t know why the fuck they showed that! It was quite funny, but we didn’t choose to do it.”
It’s not that Atomic doesn’t admire the jazz masters of the past. As Nilssen-Love explains, “We all enjoy American free jazz from the ’60s and ’70s. It colours the way that we play.” But the drummer and his colleagues are more concerned with moving forward than echoing the past.
Take, for example, the band’s next CD, which will be released later in 2008. “We’re a bit too busy, all of us, so we haven’t gotten down to pick out what tracks are going to be on the album,” says Nilssen-Love. “But some of the new tunes are more complex than the previous tunes. They’re also longer, and also with some of them there’s more space for open improvisation.”
This isn’t necessarily new terrain for Atomic’s fearless and hard-hitting rhythm section. Nilssen-Love and Hí¥ker Flaten also power guitarist Raoul Bjí¶rkenheim’s aptly named Scorch Trio and feral saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s the Thing, both of which owe as much to Sonic Youth–style noisemaking as they do to jazz. For saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist, trumpeter Magnus Broo, and pianist Hí¥vard Wiik, however, it represents a small shift in direction, one that they’re more than willing to explore.
“We just want to push things further, and maybe push each other further too,” says Nilssen-Love. “And what’s really important”¦is that we are free within that space. Freedom should lie in the fact that you feel free to do whatever feels right at the moment.”
Miles Davis, no doubt, would agree.
Atomic plays the Western Front on Saturday (January 26).