Troyka: Ornithophobia (Naim Edge)

Sonic experimentation and stunning musicianship on Kit Downes led trio's new set

Released Jan 26th, 2015 via Naim Edge / By Erick Mertz
Troyka: Ornithophobia (Naim Edge) Ornithophobia is defined as an abnormal, sometimes irrational fear of birds. This is perhaps an ironic, tongue-in-cheek choice for the title for a jazz album, which often delights in soaring song structures. The London based combo Troyka offers a fusion of free-style and post-rock that flashes between delicate and intense. The result, Ornithphobia is startlingly funky, complex, and in the end, rewarding.

The first half of the record is much jazzier with fluid relationships between sprawling tracks. Everything plays free and loose, from the opener “Arcades” through to the title track. The tone shifts abruptly on “Magpies” which lumbers like a heavy metal song, revealing some hard, underlying post-rock influences before “Thoptor” offers a sampled, apocalyptic spoken word vocal that discusses curious a curious view on the avian/human relationship theme.

From there, the album spaces out significantly. The tracks begin to separate from one another, relying on gradual fades in and out. The longest track “The General” tickles its way in on a cymbal before gradually taking on a 1970’s-esque, prog rock, jamming form a la Yes. So much of what makes Ornithophobia compelling is its structure, shifts in form, functioning like a rare, proper album.

When I step back from Ornithophobia and try to encapsulate, I come to this. It’s a mixed bag, just not in qualitative terms though. Like Mogwai or Medeski Martin and Wood, Troyka demonstrates vibrant skill and the boldness to push the limits on sonic and genre experimentation. As a result, the songs represent wide variety, and that can make a real anchor hard to locate, defining qualities hard to settle on. These are extraordinary compositions though, the musicianship absolutely top notch.