An electric trio that easily stands out from the UK jazz crowd.
Martin Longley 2012-06-12
Everything’s a single word here: the band name, the album and the tune titles. Focus is intensified, as is the case with the Troyka trio’s own compositions. This is the outfit that provides the often acoustically inclined Kit Downes with an amplified outlet. Once in Troyka mode, he’s manning the Hammond organ and electric Fender Rhodes, although he does still turn to the old acoustic piano. Downes is partnered by electric guitarist Chris Montague and drummer Joshua Blackmore.
Although the Troyka sound is markedly individual, it does have a few likely precedents. These range from King Crimson to Medeski Martin & Wood, and from Tortoise to the Wayne Krantz Trio. This second album follows Troyka’s debut of 2009.
Rarebit opens with a purring, organic shuffle, Downes dancing over full-bodied foot-pedal bass tones. Guitar and acoustic piano provide a supporting latticework, as Blackmore’s drums make nervous patterns. Troyka’s key character is tense, coiled and twitching. Climactically, Montague pours out a scalding guitar solo, developing a lumbering metal riff.
The neurotic themes continue with Dropsy, an aural accompaniment to urban disarray. Chaos is corralled into a terse construction. Not surprisingly, Crawler is slinking and sleazy, enveloping the suffocating space with an ominous pall. Montague provides an infected blues guitar solo, bent and distorted. His phrases turn atonally percussive on Oedipus, but respite arrives with Rest, which is much calmer and more reflective.
There’s another doom-chord slug-riff progression at the peak of Zebra, rearing up out of the tune’s burly strut. To close, Chaplin doesn’t particularly evoke images of Charlie. Instead, it has the eternally floating quality of a quieter Pink Floyd piece, complete with Hawaiian-style slide guitar shimmering.
Yes, it’s possible to dig up Troyka’s influences, if the listener is overly determined, but this is a unique trio that rises to the top of the UK scene. They exhibit a jazz sensibility that involves deep improvisation and complex composition, all imbued with a savage attack and impressively substantial mood-sculpting.