From 2015. Lashing Lifetime and Holdsworthian elements together as raw materials Troyka pick up where 2012’s Moxxy left off even if Ornithophobia doesn’t quite scale the dizzying heights of the band’s self titled debut on Edition back in 2009.
Still mysterious but succinct ‘Thopter’ – the news tonight: London is still under total lockdown the computerised voice intones eerily describing a virus that has been rumoured to cause gruesome deformities – and ‘The General,’ the only two of the nine tunes to smash through the five-minute mark.
Now on a new label Troyka are back to their normal configuration after a super-sized Troyk-estra episode, and making a difference Belovèd Trio bassist Petter Eldh who produces and has written a couple of the tunes but does not play (production values are high especially on the brilliant ‘Seahouses’ and the recorded sound typical of Naim is handsome) the trio laying down tracks partly at Eton College where Chris Montague who has written four of the tunes here including the title track happens to teach.
Organ sounds completely different here, a world away from its usual swinging jazz use, and Montague does not give in to launch into guitar hero mode although he easily could – as the most naturally gifted UK jazz guitarist to emerge since John McLaughlin in the 1960s, surely – or allow the band simply to jam on autopilot.
The programmed sounds and quixotic sci-fi alternative universe Downes creates on Hammond and synths throw you off the scent time and time again only now and then steered temporarily into more easily recognisable areas when drummer Josh Blackmore starts fleetingly on a drum ’n’ bass section on ‘Magpies’ for instance or even enters hyperactive dubstep mode on the fascinating vignette ‘Troyka Smash,’ another album high point.
A little more ponderous perhaps in places than on earlier albums, the ambient beginning of ‘Bamburgh’ for instance, the good news is Troyka retain their state of the art involved sense of improvisational interplay and refuse to accept jazz norms, the only question mark hovering here: have Troyka gone in just too deep?
Josh Blackmore, above left, Chris Montague, and Kit Downes, photo Naim.