Review: Magnus Öström and Troyka at the Air Sessions at King’s Place

Magnus Öström at Kings Place.
Photo credit: Roger Thomas
Magnus Öström and Troyka
(Air Sessions at King’s Place, Friday 14 March. Review by Rob Mallows)

Drummer Magnus Öström is still billed as the “former drummer of legendary Swedish trio e.s.t” but with his new album Searching for Jupiter, and his current line-up – guitarist Andreas Hourdakis, bassist Thobias Gabrielsson and keyboardist Daniel Karlsson – he is building his own legend.

This band draws on the e.s.t. legacy but takes it up a level, using effects and soundscapes to provide a beautiful canvas. Öström’s drumming has a quartz-like precision which drives each of the songs through simple changes of pace and tone. Öström is not a demonstrative drummer; with his head turned down and to the side, he can look like an engineer listening intently to the purring of an engine, from time to time making minor adjustments.

Öström is the beating heart of everything the group does, but guitarist Hourdakis is the star. He played jaw-droppingly beautiful guitar themes on tracks like opener The Moon (And the Air it Moves) and Mary Jane Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Gabrielsson’s distorted bass provided some of the most creative soloing and Karlsson’s piano was imbued with cool, icy Nordic tones.

The band is more about smooth transitions rather than hand-brake turns, unity rather than confrontation. They play music in which it is easy to lose oneself. This was a beautiful 80 minute journey to which At The End of Eternity provided a satisfying close.

TroykaKit Downes on keyboards, Chris Montague on guitars and multiple effects and Joshua Blackmore on drums – used the gorgeous acoustics of King’s Place Hall One to full effect playing a mixture of familiar and new tracks, some so new they were untitled. Virtuosity to the fore at all times, Downes, Montague and Blackmore were not there to give the audience an easy ride. Tracks like Rarebit and Tax Return were at times uncomfortable listening, all angles and stop-start, with scratchy sounds reminiscent of going through the AM dial on the radio. Add in dissonance, abrupt tempo changes and unusual chord changes and you have a sound picture that was like throwing a Hammond organ into a wood chipper. But it worked, it was compelling.

This was an evening when the contrast between the two bands brought out the very different strengths of each.

Categories: miscellaneous

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