Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham UK

Troyka play an intense hybrid of funk-strewn jazz rock with a bluesy edge and a hefty dose of electronica. On Thursday night they returned to the Hare exactly a year to the day after their last appearance at the Kings Heath venue, when they were playing a double-header with the Golden Age of Steam. Much can change in 12 months, things you think you can count on can change beyond all expectations, and not always for the better, but Chris Montague (Fender Strat) Kit Downes (keyboards and Hammond organ) and Josh Blackmore (drums) gave another consistent memorable performance, taking no prisoners.

Rarebit, from their last album Moxy, kicked off the first set. This is an extremely busy piece with rapidly changing time signatures and some almost robotic sounds emanating from Downes’ keyboards. A new tune (I think) Fox featured some disturbingly ominous heavy guitar and quick changes of tempo, strangely reminiscent of Nirvana in places, and climaxed in a rocket-fueled finale. My favorite piece of the night was Crawler, which sounded a bit like an ominous amalgam of film noir theme and Crawling King Snake. A new tune (possibly to be titled Beacon) alternated sonar-like bleeps with loping guitar, morphing into a heavy urgent blues groove. Rest featured some elegant bucolic-sounding guitar with, perhaps, a nod towards Bill Frisell’s style and a dash of Peter Green.

The second set took flight with two newer pieces. Ornithophobia, was a dark meandering tune, redolent of Wayne Krantz, which was allegedly inspired by the guitarist’s childhood fear of birds. The General featured some wonderful driving, blues-heavy, reverb-laced guitar in tandem with some funky Hammond organ. Dropsy, from the last album, mixed fluid guitar with a percussion-led groove and was a particular favorite with the audience, judging by the whoops emerging from the back. Those easily excitable folk had to be quietened, for the delicate, haunting Chaplin, which followed.

Oedipus was a bit of a two-headed monster, one part cool, dark, medative and funky (in the Medeski, Martin and Wood vein) and the other an angry squally downpour suffused with loops and electronic effects. Brought back for an encore, the band bravely performed an untitled piece ‘written last night’ as an experimental encore. It felt a bit like sitting in on a slightly fractious good-natured rehearsal with one wag in the audience suggesting it should be called unfinished symphony, although it made for a light-hearted end to the proceedings.

My preference was for the pieces with a bit more space and less use of effects, rather than the more busy compositions. It was a fascinating night and the interplay between these three inventive players made for a thrilling live experience.

Set list:
The General

Categories: Live review

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