CD reviews

DOWNLOAD REVIEW: Animal Society – Rise

Animal Society – Rise
(Available from Bandcamp. Download Review by Patrick Hadfield)

Animal Society is a new band led by guitarist Joe Williamson, winner of 2018’s Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year. Part of Glasgow’s lively jazz scene, Williamson is also a member of Square One and Strata. Animal Society has more in common with Strata, not least sharing drummer Graham Costello and a similar approach to music, mixing jazz and heavy progressive rock.

Rise is labelled as an “EP”, though at just under 40 minutes of music it is perhaps the perfect length for those of us raised on LPs. It opens with the title track: a thunder of drums and a loud chord that wouldn’t sound out of place in early ’70s Deep Purple, say. It’s making a statement. This is loud jazz. That chord gives way to a pretty heavy riff, too.

There are quieter moments, even in the loudest tracks. And loud moments in the quieter pieces, too. Even during the riffs, there are subtle keyboard trills and punctuation, provided by Alan Benzie and Craig McMahon, who together play keys and synthesisers.

Even at its loudest, there is a focus on melodic development. Williamson’s guitar solos are both searing and attractive, and Benzie and McMahon’s synthesisers play complex lines and weave in and out of the guitar. Costello’s drums and subtle bass playing by Gus Stirrat balance the sound so no one instrument dominates.

Williamson cites the Esbjorn Svensson Trio as an influence, and I can hear similarities with the post-est recordings by Magnus Öström, the drummer in est. The four tracks on this EP display a range of dynamics so that the melodic ethic isn’t hidden even in the louder moments. Animal Society made their live debut only four months ago; that they have produced a such an impressive record as Rise in so short a time bodes well.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.

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