Strictly speaking, Rise, the debut recording by Animal Society should qualify as an extended play (EP) release. However, given the fact that it weighs-in at just a few seconds short of forty minutes it also qualifies as a de facto album since plenty of the true stars of jazz (Ayler, Coltrane, Rollins, to name but a few) all released LPs of even shorter duration at some time in their respective careers.
The Glasgow-based quintet is led by guitarist Joe Williamson, winner of Young Scottish Jazz Musician Of The Year 2018. Keyboardist Alan Benzie was a winner of the first BBC Scotland Young Jazz Musician awards in 2007 aged only 17. This was followed by a major scholarship to Berklee College of Music. Craig McMahon is a multi-instrumentalist and won a place at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama at the age of 16 where he studied classical trombone for two years. He later graduated with a first class honours degree in Applied Music at the University of Strathclyde and was awarded the Alexander Stone award for composition in 2014. Bassist Gus Stirrat also graduated from Strathclyde University with a first class honours degree in music and, like McMahon, was awarded the Alexander Stone award for excellence in his final recital. Graham Costello started teaching himself drums at the age of six. Later he took a formal Jazz course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where he graduated with a first class honours degree.
"Rise," the opener/title tune, is almost punk in its opening bars but immediately progresses to a heavy jazz rock vamp. The track is reminiscent of the heat generated by the up-and-coming London-based band fusioneers Preston Glasgow Lowe, but as subsequent tracks like the lengthy "Illuminate" clearly demonstrate, Animal Society is not just intent on delivering short, sharp shocks. There's depth here and light and shade, too, courtesy of the interplay between the fluid guitar and keyboards. But these are always backed-up by a super-tight rhythm section. The slow-burner "Ripples" gradually progresses from ethereal finger-picked guitar and keyboards to a crescendo of cascading, scintillating notes. The closer, "Morning Star" benefits from a subtle, yet indelible riff introduced by the keyboards and later echoed by Williamson's guitar which he executes with shimmering vibrato. When Animal Society releases it first "proper" album, it will undoubtedly be a compulsory listen for all serious fans of jazz rock fusion.
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