OVERCOMING darkness with light, both personally and in a global context, appears central to Parachute, the third solo album from a musician synonymous with groundbreaking contemporary jazz/rock – drummer and composer Magnus Öström.
For a decade and a half, Öström was a perfect third of seminal trio e.s.t. (with pianist Esbjörn Svensson and bassist Dan Berglund), until Svensson’s shocking, untimely death in 2008.
Now, with his established personnel of Andreas Hourdakis (guitars), Thobias Gabrielson (bass, keyboards) and Daniel Karlsson (piano, keyboards) – following on from solo debut Thread of Life (2011) and Searching for Jupiter (2013) – this new release exhibits a more celebratory, cathartic approach. Öström specifically identifies his personal ‘parachute’ as the healing energy of music, especially amidst the darkest of times; and the pervading, sometimes slow-burning intent of these eight original tracks does indeed possess an aura of positivity, acceptance and contentment.
It’s a sound world which might take some time to break into – opener Dog on the Beach‘s blue-sky propulsion ripples ebulliently to guitar and keyboard riffs, whereas Walkabout Bug‘s ticking, oscillating pop gait is as much about the groove as its synth-supported improvisations. But at its heart is the unmistakable exactitude of Öström’s drumming, his characteristic attention to detail producing a signature sound familiar to any e.s.t. fan. Junas is a classic example, with its prog rock piano/keyboard drama and jazz guitar chromatics dancing to the drummer’s syncopated, shuffling, perpetual motion and typically glinting percussion.
The barren, opening theme of The Green Man and the French Horn gives way to calm abandonment, its blithe piano and guitar demeanour suggesting a folksy, hymn-like solace; and excitingly propulsive title track Parachute figuratively suggests Öström’s “way back to life” via zesty synth passages and a pianistically jazz-inflected middle section, as well as vividly pictorialising an adrenalin-fired, flare-trailed descent to terra firma.
The Shore of Unsure is animated through Öström’s compelling, palpitating drive – a dark, cinematic episode enhanced by guest trumpeter Mathias Eick’s clear, transcendent extemporisations, whilst Reedjoyce‘s pop/rock fervour reveals, more than ever, the full-on, blistering potential of this line-up; and a cool-grooving breeziness in closing track All the Remaining Days is coloured by balmy guitar-and-piano motifs.
Magnus Öström says that he had always intended this project to create at least three albums, to see how it developed – and there’s a sense of both consolidation and progress throughout these fifty minutes. As an artist, he has already provided us with an incalculably rich legacy, through e.s.t. – and with these solo realisations, as well as the new ‘e.s.t. Symphony’ project, his creative journey continues to be fascinating to follow.
Magnus Öström drums, percussion, voice
Andreas Hourdakis electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Thobias Gabrielson bass, bass synthesizer, keyboards
Daniel Karlsson grand piano, keyboards
Mathias Eick trumpet (on The Shore of Unsure)
Diesel Music – DIESEL C-54 (2016)