Review: Magog – Dances with Beast and Giants (Muteant Sounds, Jan 8)

As stated in the description, Dances with Beast and Giants is indisputably an album that suits a variety of environments, whether it’s “club, stage, [or] street.” The UK quartet, which features drum set, trumpet, trombone, and baritone sax, explodes into existence with a propulsive drum groove and cacophonous wind battles on “Bone Dance,” an incendiary opener that rivals the formidable presence of much larger ensemble pieces (one that immediately comes to mind is Angles 9’s “Equality & Death,” a track produced by more than twice the amount of musicians). Magog displays this unique ability to sound like much more than just a quartet not just on “Bone Dance,” but many times throughout the record. On “Rising,” the second track, power is found in tightly orchestrated unison licks, but “Dancing with Giants” returns to the fiery fray with clashing simultaneous solos, but eventually the jagged, unaligned cells fall into step with each other, crossing the chasm between chaos and unity in an impossibly short amount of time. Truly both a “mini brass band” and “deranged modern village band,” Magog combines traditional jazz sensibilities, exceptional musicianship, ecstatic harmony, and an ever-astute collective ear for the abstract to produce an enrapturing “dream time jazz for today.”