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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Space - Embrace the Space (Relative Pitch, 2024)

By Taylor McDowell

Space is Lisa Ullén (piano), Elsa Bergman (double bass) and Anna Lund (drums).The piano trio based in Stockholm is back with a fiery follow-up to their 2022 debut. The trio now collectively goes under the name Space, which I perceive to be the symbolic transformation from ad hoc group to a real band. On Embrace the Space the trio indeed plays like a band - demonstrating a fondness of each other rooted in their shared history (a shared history dating back to at least 2016 as members of Anna Högberg Attack). On Embrace the Space, the exploratory interplay of their previous outing is sufficiently eclipsed by raw and moving confidence of a fully-developed team.

Recorded in studio, Embrace the Space consists of eight exhilarating improvisations. The conciseness of most of these improvisations yields focused, to-the-point statements that relish in their collective acumen with stirring results. “Look” kicks things off with snarl, with Ullén’s brooding piano building tension like thunderheads on the horizon. The erratic “Cyklop” begins with a spikey conversation between prepared piano and Bergman’s plodding bass before Lund enters the fray. “Rage” is aptly titled - it’s a full-tilt assault led by Lund’s driving cymbals. On “Composure,” the trio slows down without sacrificing a lick of intensity. The paced, descending piano harmony feels foreboding enough before Bergman and Lund prod the group into rougher seas. Three longer tracks permit the group to stretch out a bit more. 

They still retain the focused energy as on their shorter improvisations, but with some additional room to maneuver. “All at Once” is a daring ride that firmly seats Space in the upper echelon of piano trios. There are even moments that remind me of the Feel Trio in the same raw intensity. “Bleach” is the longest track here at over 12-minutes. We find Space at its most dynamic here - it’s a communion of shifting moods and building tension. About 6-minutes in the trio decelerates; Ullén taps out a repetitive chord while Lund and Bergman fill the scene with restless energy. The piece gradually builds gravity until it reaches a breaking point. The release of energy is hair-raising as three voices collide in free jazz maelstrom. Utterly brilliant.

Space is fast becoming one of the most daring piano trios on today’s scene (and a personal favorite of mine). Embrace the Space is a milestone achievement for the trio as they solidify their sound and camaraderie. Highly recommended.

Enjoy this live performance at Gothenburg’s Brötz.

Embrace The Space is available as a CD or digital download.