Troyka are a London trio made up of piano/keyboard player Kit Downes, guitarist Chris Montague and drummer Joshua Blackmore, and whatever funk or soul-jazz preconceptions you may have about the classic organ-guitar-drums lineup here are already wrong.
Full of virtuosity, bags of energy and incredibly inclusive, here everything is thrown into the mix – jazz, rock, dance, funk, and more – and everything comes with a distinct cerebral edge. This is not a funky groove workout. More this is a unique experiment that doesn’t stand close to anything else you’ve ever heard. And as such you’re warned to approach with caution, but absolutely encouraged to approach.
“Tax Return” kicks things off with a driving rhythmic workout that snakes away into something more serious and free – a form of free-jazz-funk - but though good, you can’t help but wish that the killer groove went on for just a bit longer. “Clint” that follows it (obviously a dedication to Mr Eastwood, whose films have more than occasionally boasted a great jazz inflected score), comes armed with some fiery slide guitar that showcases how perfectly suited Montague would be to a career as a full-time bluesman or funk god.
The real meat of the album though is clearly in the second half, where things ramp up to a higher level, with even tighter playing and some wonderfully off-kilter melodies and sounds. Witness the album highlight ‘Noonian Song’ (who knows the Star Trek connection?). Constantly shifting, with some delightfully wonky sounding guitar and beautifully languid keyboard playing, the groove builds and evolves into that perfect kind of musical moment that most albums can only hope to possess.
Troyka is not perfect. For many it will prove too winding and multi-directional and perhaps lacking focus, choosing as it does to explore as much as possible, rather than just settling with a perhaps expected route - conversely though that is also the major part of its charm. Sure they could get down with some funky grooves, or rock out, but that would be too easy. Instead they have created a clever, multi-layed, multi-textured and not without humour diverse debut that, while requesting your full attention to get the most out of it, reveals new elements with each fresh listen. And it leaves you hungry for just what they might come up with next.