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E.S.T.: Viaticum

I came to E.S.T. very prepared to like them. I am inclined toward piano trios and Scandinavian jazz. I love it that, in an era when the concept of the working band is fading into history, E.S.T. (Esbjorn Svensson Trio) has been together 13 years. I especially love the fact that there is a little buzz about them, that they actually sell records and have a young, enthusiastic fan base.

So there is no joy in reporting that, on the evidence of Viaticum, E.S.T. is one of the most inconsequential ensembles that anyone ever stood in line for. The trio plays inane little melodies and plodding little grooves and repeats them obsessively, as if, through repetition, what is vacuous will miraculously become meaningful. None of these players (pianist Esbjorn Svensson, bassist Dan Berglund, drummer Magnus Ostrom) would appear to have experienced the intellectual tension that might lead to an interesting idea.

In press notes, Svensson explains, “Sometimes there’s not even a solo!” So true. This music is like aural wallpaper, and nothing–“solos” or anything else–penetrates below the flat surface. Presumably, drummer Ostrom’s catatonically fixed patterns are supposed to be, like, Zen. It might be safer to take this stuff with chemicals. Listening cold sober could be destructive to brain cells.

Originally Published