As Esbjörn Svensson's trio has developed into a first-rate contemporary jazz entity, the combined acoustic-electric sound he employs is more alluring and arresting with each recording. The subtle nuances of amplified keyboard shades that embellish his piano playing is a unique quality of E.S.T.'s music that sets them apart from the vast majority of combos who place a larger value on louder complements. Another aspect of this group is that they are truly a working ensemble with stable personnel, as bassist Dan Berglund and drummer Magnus Öström have joined Svensson in this trio for years. The meditative and surrealistic quality of this music is hard to deny or dismiss, as it is so refined and defined within a spiritual parameter -- unique unto itself, and beyond most modern categories. While the titles are elusively cryptic, they can shed some light on the musical content. "Tide of Trepidation" aligns itself to the ECM/Bobo Stenson school of piano thought, a mysterious type of composition with underlying, echoed electronic washes lapping up the melody. "In the Tail of Her Eye" is undoubtedly a slow, 4/4 song of brokenhearted regret, "What Though the Way May Be Long" is a poetic discourse on unseen destiny lying ahead, and "The Unstable Table & the Infamous Fable" intimates a film noir spy scene in its cinematic anticipation of held tension. Less inanimate, "Eighty Eight Days in My Veins" is cast via a shuffle mode in 6/8 time, more driven and chiming with a two-note contrapuntal buzzing insert. The slightly bouncing or bumpy modified tango line of "The Well Wisher" is very light on its feet, in a style that could be a cousin of Keith Jarrett. The most compelling track is "A Picture of Doris Travelling with Boris," as the trio conjures up an aural visage of sleepwalking movement or late-night paranormal mean streets with a sheen of electric light guiding the way. E.S.T.'s music is for specific tastes, but seems to have found common ground with fantasy imagineers, the baby boomer ECM crowd, and youth searching for parallels to the Bad Plus or Brad Mehldau. Viaticum is a successful effort, a progression from their previous efforts, and in many ways a new pathway to the future without relying on black holes.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos