The best modern pop music has no boundaries and builds a nest of sonic structures from whatever takes its fancy. An example of this is genre-mashup genius Flying Lotus, whose last album was inspired by driving around uptown listening to Soft Machine Volume Two of all things, at suitably perception altering volumes. You’re Dead was that quite remarkable record, and it is a sprawling, loose, free and psychedelic affair, adhering to the original meaning of jazz.
In much the same spirit, but approaching from another angle entirely are London collective Troyka. You are as likely to find obscure electronica dance music references in Ornithophobia as you are blues licks, jazzy time signatures and Aphex Twin rhythms. The trio of musical apparatchiks otherwise known as Troyka are Chris Montague on guitars and loops, Joshua Blackmore on drums and percussion and Kit Downes on organ, according to the band website, though that all too brief accreditation does their highly intricate and precise web of sound no justice at all.
Ornithophobia opens with the superb Arcades, a tune that contrasts an urban blues with city angst in juxtaposing sections that jolt the listener around in the most unexpected of fashions. There is a similarity in feel to what the Gang of Four achieved at their most wilful, but not sonically. A kind of anti-guitar solo buffets up against n-n-nervous organ notes as the tune ends suddenly, leaving the listener abandoned to his or her own devices in a suddenly alien cityscape.
One thing you can say with any certainty about this record is that it is most definitely an urban experience, and transmits the thrill and the angst of big city life quite succinctly. Life Was Transient continues the theme, where every instrument seems to be taking on a skittering percussive role, with Joshua Blackmore’s wonderfully light-wristed drumming leading the way.
The ornithophobia of the album title is given an extra edge by the newscaster announcement at the start of Thropter, wherein we are told that London, Paris, and Brussels are in total quarantine lockdown after an outbreak of avian virus, this being the only ostensibly non-instrumental track on the record. The music throughout is densely complex but surprisingly accessible, in the manner of Gentle Giant, had they been a post-modern triphop co-operative with jazz chops. What I am trying to say is that Troyka make modern progressive music, music that would only be sullied by a “rock” or “jazz” or “dance” appendage, for this is beyond classification, it just is.
Possibly the most conventional tune on the record is the near-seven minute The General, which is built on a relatively simple bass riff and some bluesy guitar and organ. Even then, underneath you feel the restlessness; staying in such a simple time signature was never really an option. This is a blues for tomorrow as it fair steams along to its conclusion.
Ornithophobia runs the gamut of ultra-modernistic dance rhythms, highly complex math rock, through to the aforementioned bluesy almost-rocker of The General, to end with the evocative mood-ballad Seahorses that has one squinting at feeble street lighting through a rain-flecked windshield.
Those of us constantly on the lookout for the new may well have found it. If you know where I’m coming from, then you need to buy this, now!
01. Arcades (4:33)
02. Life Was Transient (4:22)
03. Ornithophobia (4:56)
04. Magpies (4:32)
05. Thropter (5:27)
06. Bamburgh (3:12)
07. The General (6:50)
08. Troyka Smash (2:53)
09. Seahouses (4:08)
Total time – 40:54
Chris Montague – Guitars and Loops
Joshua Blackmore – Drums
Kit Downes – Keyboards
Record Label: Naim Edge
Year Of Release: 2015