Perched on shelves, buried in bins, and collecting dust on racks, some of the world’s best music is left to the fate of time. Forgotten and neglected, these artists and albums are now primed for re-evaluation thanks to a world gone digital. Any would-be musical explorer can now plug in, tune out, and turn up. Deserted is aimed at aiding those who would embrace the past rather than reject it. So open up your arms and welcome Magnog.
The history of Seattle during the late 80s and 90s has long been written as lore; the days when hard-edged bands, looking to react against the hair metal and lightweight pop of arena rock and MTV fashion found refuge in the Emerald City. Their bleak outlook and ratty attire would become the flag of disenfranchised teens growing up amongst hippies-turned-yuppies, ditching cause for cash. How affected they were, drawn in by Seattle’s best and brightest, only to find the bands and the city were becoming a meat market for A&R to draw themselves a slice. The Seattle of today reflects the influx of yesteryear, with the city’s modern bands also enjoying the deli cuts of grunge and early alternative that once fueled a generation.
Lost within those shuffles was a genre just discovering its identity. Borrowing from psychedelia, 70s hard rock, and fusion, space rock began to emerge for those further infuriated by how corporate alternative had become. Tucked within the recesses of Seattle laid an outfit removed from the claptrap of Gap flannel and Hot Topic torn jeans: Magnog.
The trio of Jeff Reilly, Dana Shinn, and Phil Drake has mystery on their side. Here we stand, fifteen years removed from the band’s one and only ‘proper’ album (Kranky, which released the band’s self-titled album, did release a collection of demos and home recordings after the band’s dissolution) and somehow Magnog remains lost to Seattle and scantly touched in the modern iterations of space rock. Maybe it’s the loose association that comes along with such a shoddy genre marker or more likely, it’s the semi-success of a band such as Hum that has kept Magnog hidden from view for so long.
At least the band’s self-titled continues to be a beacon from which many of us can see the other side of Seattle; the less glamorized and exploited side which continued to produce a great amount of originality inside the spiral of corporate homogeny. Magnog is effortless; a roller coaster of calming melodies and furious peaks of psychedelic fervor. Rather than the crunch of override and distortion, Magnog is clean, allowing every cymbal hit, resonating note, and minimal lyric to seep into the subconscious—and somehow, the album is just as adept at hitting those hardened hearts hidden beneath a sheath of plaid.
Where Magnog disappeared to is there secret to keep. But in a setting when 90s nostalgia is overtaking 80s schmaltz, here’s hoping that Magnog is able and willing to resurface and allow Seattle (and the rest of the world) to give them the proper thanks they earned.