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Anna Högberg Attack
Anna Högberg Attack Euan Andrews , March 11th, 2016 13:08

Attack. It's a wallop around the chops or a desperate lunge at the body. A rallying cry of defence in the face of provocation or a frenzied barrage to reclaim what's rightfully yours. So, those entwined bodies which compose the cover shot of the debut LP from these six outstanding Swedish jazz musicians can't help but project allusions onto the gazer's inner eye. Limbs contorted and faces buried in each other, we seem to see the aftermath of a deliberate collision filled with giddy joy. Those figures are going to be down for some time by the look of it, having crashed into one another with all the impact of a bracingly friendly contact sport.

It's the perfect visual counterpoint for the joyous barrage coming from this perfectly formed sextet, a spiky and visceral group who collectively wrap themselves around your head and body in a bone-breaking bear hug and whisper honey in your ear. Having previously been subsumed within the vast density of Fire! Orchestra, Anna Högberg here steps out as a relatively small unit bandleader with ferocious vigour. Her richly sonorous alto sax is joined in a three-pronged frontal assault unit with Malin Wattring and Elin Larsson on dual tenor and soprano duties to form a sisterhood of breath.

Indeed, breath is the very first thing you hear on the opening 'Attack', exhaled air moving through reeds and valves as darkly ominous piano chords rumble and cymbals scrape and clatter. It sounds like a charcoal pencil sketch is being drawn, a rough and potentially volatile assembly of fragments which suddenly roars into colour with a jubilant fanfare from the three sax players. Shapes begin to manifest inside this slow-gathering offensive, the piano, bass and drums providing the engine power for the horn trio to weave delicate yet resolute lines which can swiftly drop into fleeting whirlpools. By this point, the six players are focused in tumultuous interplay lingering on the edges of full free jazz maelstrom while constantly withholding the necessary loss of tension which would ensure that release.

The Attack's surge then disperses while piano and percussion grind their teeth before that sax fanfare emerges once again, now more ragged and torn, bruised and howling for comfort. It's all done in just over eight minutes setting a standard for the Attack as they mould their tightly-packed compositions into seven short and stripped-down pieces across forty minutes. 'Familjen' begins like a piano trio, jagged keys colliding with percussive shards and nimble bass thrum until a mournful, blues theme drapes itself with slow sorrow across the manic intensity of string and skin. Lisa Ullen's piano work becomes part of the rhythmic drive which powers the Attack, working in tandem with Högberg's exultant sax chorus as well as rooting around inside the spokes and pistons of Elsa Bergman's bass ripples and Anna Lund's drum battery.

'Borderline' squeals open like a tyre blow-out on a rocky road auguring maximum demon expulsion, all six musicians engaged in brutal duel while still hollering punctuation points until they stop and try to remain calm right at the cliff edge. 'Lisa Med Kniven' sets out on a violently playful bass excursion, Bergman lovingly bashing wood and strings before being gently coaxed out of this savage mood by Ullen's soothing piano clusters as the group coalesce down a darkly-lit street on a cubist noir tip, angles and elbows rubbing against each other's abrasions. Högberg reaches out with dynamic solos and then gracefully retreats back into group shadows, her Attack a star-turned whole which manages to be even more than the sum of its parts. The brief outlines of 'Skoflikargrand' and 'Regnet', tiny wakes turned to carnivals, don't waste a second while finale 'Hogberger' has Bergman playing her bass like it's being sawed in half as Högberg's throaty sax skirls through a blood-pumping group frenzy before a final drift downriver, away from the heat of battle with horns softly mopping fevered brows and joints. What a blast it's been.