E.S.T. (Esbjörn Svensson Trio)
Seven Days Of Falling
t starts with an almost imperceptible and sweet melancholy, the quietest, loveliest piano for an age, slow and deliberate but not clean. Half-heard backwashes of cymbal and the plangent lope of a double-bass note are swept in by the gentle, tidal momentum of the piano, as it reaches crest and swell, swell and crest, but never flood. At three-minutes and twenty seconds in, when the piano line slowly rises and then delicately tails off time and again, I could quite happily melt and never hear another sound again. “Ballad For The Unborn”, Seven Days Of Falling’s opening track, is a guided, controlled and beautiful piece of music, redolent of solitary, early-evening beach strolls. As introductions go, it’s a fine one.
Sweden isn’t the first place you think of when the word ‘jazz’ is mentioned, but it would seem as if America’s first art form is actually thriving there if the Esbjörn Svensson Trio are anything to go by. Like Australia’s The Necks they’re ostensibly a simple three-piece based around piano, bass and drums who introduce a wealth of other sounds and textures into their music through thoughtful use of the studio. Esbjörn Svensson Trio though don’t ply their trade in hour-long tectonic suites of glacial repetition, instead preferring, especially on Seven Days…, to move in a field of concise, melodic and rock-inflected modern jazz.
Seven Days Of Falling reminds me of many, many things. At times on the title track Esbjörn Svensson’s piano seems to echo the half-melodies Thom Yorke succumbed to during the Kid A / Amnesiac axis, a recollection furthered by the textures employed via Dan Berglund’s bass guitar, bowed, fuzzed and flanged through a host of devices until it becomes unrecognisable. Magnus Öström’s metallic, industrial drums begin “Mingle In The Mincing Machine” like a piece of electronica; elsewhere his accelerating beats move from jazz into dance and back again with ease. “Elevation Of Love” sounds like the instrumentals from Lambchop’s new album(s) refracted through the last ten years of postrock, and its upbeat tone guides the overall feel of Seven Days Of Falling, even amidst the calm, spacious beauty of ballads like “Why She Couldn’t Come”, which is seemingly constructed using the empty spaces between bass-notes borrowed from “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”. The opening of “Did They Ever Tell Cousteau?” reminds me of Roni Size’s “Brown Paper Bag” as played by a children’s jazz orchestra. “In My Garage”, in thrall to a thrilling momentum, couldn’t sound less like The Strokes despite its suggestive title; rather it sounds like Plaid’s most melodic moments transcribed for a jazz band, which is a wonderful thing.
Far too emotive and varied to be lost under the banner of ‘chill out’, Seven Days… is nevertheless an accessible and open record that swings between the gorgeously plaintive and the refreshingly exciting. If rock music’s ambitious / pretentious sons can borrow from jazz to up their credibility, then here’s no reason why jazz can’t take a little something back. E.S.T. do that wonderfully.