Gone are the days when Magnus Öström was simply known as the drummer with the ill-fated E.S.T. After a brief but entirely understandable period of listlessness he re-emerged in 2011 with this super-tight fusion group. This is their fourth album, and although noticeably less temperate than Öström’s other main focus, Rymden, the project allows the Swede to reconnect with his roots in rock.
With a stronger emphasis on composition than the group’s earlier recordings, A Room For Travellers marks something of a progression. Solos appear woven into the compositional fabric, Öström’s bandmates understanding the musical parameters so well that they are at one with the music.
The intricate theme, harmonic complexity and funky strut of opener Safe And Sound brings to mind Gramavision-era Scofield. Upbeat and buoyant, it nevertheless carries just enough latent tension to reveal an inner depth. The glistening Flowfly carries a hint of swing time, Hourdakis’s heavily processed guitar gliding across the charts as if propelled by magnetic levitation.
The thematically linked Oceans and Pacific form the album’s centrepiece, and are palpably darker in mood. Öström’s liner notes speak of a desire to reflect on mankind’s damage to the natural world. The writing is amongst the best of his career, impressing a nagging sense of urgency to somehow square the circle. Karlsson is particularly strong on both tracks, and despite their gravity I also detect a lingering sense of hope.
The two closing tracks are altogether more personal. On The High In My Life is a joyously extrovert, almost carnival-like celebration of life. All Those Years by contrast is freighted with poignancy, a flashback to that first post-Svensson release, 2011’s Threads Of Life.
This is easily the group’s slickest and most compelling release to date, Öström increasingly comfortable in his new stride.
Safe And Sound; Flowfly; Oceans; Pacific; On The High In My Life; All Those Years (39.06)
Öström (d, pc, v, kyb) with Daniel Karlsson (p, kyb); Andreas Hourdakis (g, elg); Thobias Gabrielson (b, elb). Atlantis Studio, Stockholm, January 2023.
Jazzland Recordings 377 955 6