Release Date: Sep 23, 2014
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Goat’s Commune, the follow-up to their 2012 debut World Music, marks a welcome return from the Swedish band that somehow melds more influences than its lofty predecessor into one enormously satisfying record. A lone chime patiently rings open Commune in “Talk To God” before any other elements are slowly and carefully introduced, one at a time. The steely twanging of acoustic guitars and jutting, eccentric drumming dance around high-pitched howling vocals, with Goat quickly establishing themselves as adept at vanilla songwriting before exploding into successful experimentation with various regional styles, tempos and instruments from just about every genre and continent.
Goat - as a band at least - are full of contradictions. They claim to be from a tiny Swedish settlement named Korpilombolo, but on their own web biography they’ve mispelt the town’s name. Goat say that this little town in the Norrbotten County has a history stitched together from voodoo, curses and witch doctors. They’ve also said that they made up the above story.
Anonymous Swedish psych purveyors Goat delve deeper into spiritual corners on their follow-up to 2012's acclaimed World Music. Commune starts with the single peal of a church bell that reverberates into Talk To God, an archetypal Goat song with its hypnotic polyrhythms, repetitive groove, guitar lines both spidery and thunderous, and chanting female singers. You can imagine the group in their elaborate masks and face paint hopping and dancing around a bonfire Burning Man-style.
Goat’s first album, 2012’s World Music, fused African music, psychedelia and elaborately costumed Swedish eccentricity. Their gigs were like rituals – hence Commune, album number two, a title probably more verb than noun. Appropriately, Talk to God finds Goat’s female vocalist chanting alongside some heady guitar runs. It’s fair to say that Goat have not really recalibrated since World Music – there’s a dash more Turkish psychedelic folk here, a mite more tempo variety there.
The pedigree of their 2012 debut ‘World Music’ was such that nobody questioned Goat’s fanciful backstory, involving a remote village in Sweden, voodoo mysticism and witch doctors. The seven-piece’s heavy, physical take on psychedelic rock is even more convincing on ‘Commune’. Compared to its predecessor, the production is snappier and helps lift the veil on their righteous noise.
What intrigues about Goat is how they manage to impress and startle, rather than offend. After all, the notion of a bunch of Swedes taking African-styled guitar melodies and welding them on to droning psychedelia could easily be taken for cultural appropriation. But then Goat, with their masked players on stage, are reliant upon appropriation for their exotic sense of otherness, which is key to their appeal.
Christian Johansson, the approachable face of the otherwise incognito Swedish neo-psychedelicists Goat, has somewhat disingenuously claimed that the masks the group wear are about “not drawing attention to yourself”. On a personal level, this makes sense but, when allied with Goat’s persuasively honed mythology, toasted to perfection north of the Arctic Circle, it’s bound to turns heads. Commune, the collective’s second studio album, is a pulsating sex globule of groovy chants and invocations.
There is a lot we do not know about Goat. We do not know who they are, how they really work and how much of their own Korpolombolo back story is true or false. What we do know, however, is that they make incredibly exciting music that pushes the boundaries of what ‘genre’ can really mean. In many ways, it feels as Goat’s ultimate mission is to be free of all the shackles of definition in a world where everything has to be defined and compartmentalised.
"All great pop music," Brian Eno once said, "is created by small groups of people misunderstanding other small groups far away." The Swedish band Goat works from the premise that compounding those misunderstandings can make pop even better. Their faraway small groups of choice are artists who've introduced the fuzz and wah of electric instruments into traditions that developed outside Western pop: Tinariwen, the Congotronics crowd, Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band, the heavier side of the Sublime Frequencies catalog. The ingenious part of Goat's act is that they've looped those artists' sounds back into drone-rock, expanding the range of tones and rhythms that most of the bands in Spacemen 3's wake have wielded at their disposal.
If you’re looking for subtlety, look elsewhere than the Swedish psychedelic collective GOAT. The first hint that Commune, the band’s second album, will be a strange and deeply serious affair is in the audacity of its opening track, “Talk to God.” The nearly seven-minute song begins with the slow chiming of bells, the solemn call to worship. And then the hypnotically twisting guitar takes center stage, beginning the conversation.
A bell chimes, resonantly. For a few short seconds it is unclear what is coming. Will Goat have changed? Have they suddenly gone all ambient? And then the insistent, persistent groove of ‘Talk to God’ kicks in and it becomes immediately obvious, this is Goat. Like them or loathe them, this is what you get.
When approaching the follow-up to a record as unilaterally praised and, on a personal level, so intoxicatingly enjoyable as Goat's 2012 debut World Music, all kinds of anxieties are inevitably thrown up regarding the new work's comparative merit. Which is why for this writer, on hearing how the psych journeymen chose to open their latest record Commune – with the ominous clang of a temple bell (like a theological inversion of the opener on Black Sabbath's debut) – it felt oddly apt, fateful almost. It was as if they knew I was scared to listen to the record; they responded by scaring me further with ecclesiastical percussion instruments.
Goat — Commune (Sub Pop)Try as I could, I remained singularly unmoved when masked Swedish psych-boppers Goat first sashayed into the world’s collective conscience about two years ago. I didn’t bite, but as a committed fan of psychedelic music since my teenage years (starting with Jefferson Airplane and Amon Düül II), I was more than willing to give them a second chance. After all, I may not have liked the slightly gimmicky nature of the band, but Goat can certainly churn out an infectious beat.Goat unashamedly looks into the past to fuel its musical synapses, and, more importantly, the band casts its net fearlessly, drawing in African and Asian influences as well as nods to the traditional music of their home nation.