Mopo ‘Mopocalypse’ LP/CD/Cassette (WE JAZZ) 5/5

This eight-track release by Helsinki based Mopo, their fourth full-length but their debut album for the We Jazz record label, resumes their contemporary approach to jazz, but all with a Finnish twist. The trio consists of alto and baritone saxophonist Linda Fredriksson, electric and double bass player Eero Tikkanen who also contributes violin parts, and drummer and percussionist Eeti Nieminen, who adds some further synthesiser work. Additionally, Otto Eskelinen supplies organ chops on one track. Writing duties are shared between the band but with Linda Fredriksson being the most prolific of the group.

The set begins with ‘Tökkö’, a bold and brash composition, which was also released on 7” in 2017 with ‘Nääspossu’ on the B-side – a track not featured on the album, which possess an almost hip hop sensibility and would definitely be a popular live showcase piece. ‘Riisto’ continues this high-octane formula, with the electric bass being particularly affective here. The third track of the set, ‘Ruusu’, again makes effectual use of bass, but with Eero Tikkanen moving over to double bass, which underpins the whole composition.

‘Musafa’ contains elements of Ethio jazz and could almost be mistaken for a Mulatu Astatke track – but without the vibes, with its steady percussive accompaniments and winding rhythm section. ‘Niin Aikaisin’, the only non-original piece being a traditional Finnish song, again draws upon some Ethiopian jazz qualities as inspiration. ‘Noita’ combines various musical cultures and concepts, including 1950s sci-fi movie cues with its Theremin-esque sonics, choppy Farisa organ chords and spiritual jazz flavours all within a 3/4 time signature metering. ‘Panama’ begins with a more subdued feel with its incredibly funky but tight snare drum sound, but without the track being wholly funk based. Melody takes precedence here with its assortment of melodic frameworks, as Linda Fredriksson’s playing becoming less frantic but more poignant.

There is a diverse collection of ideas and themes that run throughout the album, and for a trio configuration, the album radiates a very textured and dense quality. This is not a quiet, sparse and meagre affair, but a rich, deep and riveting album. Similarities with the fertile work of Shabaka Hutchings and other young players is apparent, especially the more brazen saxophone workouts and fans of more edgy contemporary jazz will feel at home with ‘Mopocalypse’.

We are massive supporters of the We Jazz organisation here at UK Vibe. Their forward thinking and progressive approach to the contemporary jazz climate is welcomed, with their growing back catalogue unquestionably worth investigating and their annual festival each December expanding year on year. As standard practice by We Jazz, the album is available on vinyl, but also in digital and CD formats, and is even additionally released on cassette tape.

Damian Wilkes