Release Date: Oct 7, 2016
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
On paper, Goat sound like a comically terrible idea for a band. They perform in masks and flowing robes, and claim to hail from the remote northern Swedish village of Korpilombolo, where they emerged less as a band than as a collective which has supposedly handed its identity down to new members over the decades. Their line-up is a mystery, and Goat give the impression that different members drift in and out of recording sessions: anyone who happens to be there when the band is making music is part of the band.
Requiem is the sound the air makes in Joshua Tree and Korpilombolo; the way the sky looks as it melts into the horizon. It is the taste of adventure; the joyful abandon of running from sand to sea on a cold day. A repose for the soul; a celebration of life. Essentially, what we're trying to say is that Requiem is every bit as exuberant as we've come to expect from our favorite masked Swedes—even if they have described it as their "folk album." .
The mysterious Swedish psychedelic collective Goat aren't the easiest band to pin down musically, leaping as they do from style to style underneath the psychedelic umbrella. 2014's Commune focused their sprawling approach, which can stray from Afro-pop to Asian folk and all points in between, into something fairly lean and driving. They call 2016's Requiem their folk album, and indeed it is more acoustic, but it's also an expansive, mind-expanding trip around the world of music.
The flamboyantly dressed, mask-wearing Goat purportedly hail from a tribal village in Northern Sweden – naturally. Their two albums to date, 2012’s World Music and 2013’s Commune, were both spirited snapshots of what happens when fuzz rock and world music collide. This latest effort, declared by the band as their “folk album”, finds them delving headfirst into a smorgasbord of global sounds.
Whether they’re parlaying their carefully cultivated mystique into pop stardom, or just outed by the press, camera-shy buzz acts generally don’t stay anonymous for long. But the masked members of GOAT have now made it to their third album without breaking character or being doxxed, which is no small achievement for a self-mythologizing entity in the age of oversharing. And even if they’re the only ones still recounting their incredulous origin story with a straight face (or a mask depicting a straight face), GOAT are still clinging the conceit, and to this day, interviews with the band put journalists in the awkward position of picking up the phone and asking to speak with somebody named Fuzzmaster.
Goat have dealt in the element of surprise since their debut record World Music appeared in 2012. Little was known about them then, other than that they hail from Korpilombolo, Norrbotten County in Sweden - a place they also claim is a place with a history of voodoo worship - and little more is known about them now. Thanks to the tribal style masks they continue to wear when performing we don’t even know what they look like.
Greatness and indulgence on wicker-worshippers’ third These masked Swedish witch-doctor types are steeped in a mythology of voodoo curses and free-thinking communes they’ve constructed around their Arctic Circle ‘home town’ of Korpilombolo (almost certainly bollocks, sadly – I’ve been there and asked). Still, Goat have built a minor cult around their progressive, globe-straddling psychedelic world music, and this third album will only lengthen the Kool-Aid queue. ADVERTISINGinRead invented by Teads .
There is a puzzle at the heart of Goat’s Requiem, but not an inscrutable one. The band’s imagery and presentation evoke the theatricality of pre-Christian European pagan traditions; the cover looks like May Day in The Wicker Man (1973); and the band’s music is animated by a protean creative spirit that moves with ease through disparate genres and traditions, exhibiting disarming skill for tapping into sounds both familiar and surprising. Their momentum is always towards the enlargement of the cultural picture.
Masters of characteristic secrecy, Swedish traditional experimentalists Goat have remained a uniquely unidentifiable prospect across two records, allowing their music to be a solitary voice. While their eccentrically engaging live show has frequently been the forefront of acclaim, their recorded output can perhaps be considered outshadowed. But with new record ‘Requiem’, these oddballs have delivered an album worthy of the same status.
Goat claim to be a loose collective from Korpilombolo, Norrbotten County, Sweden – but beyond that their identities are a mystery. In live performance they wear outlandish masks and multicoloured robes similar to those available at an incense-and-candles emporium near you. Their festival-friendly head music incorporates styles from around the globe – African highlife guitar here (Trouble in the Streets), a wailing eastern voice there (Psychedelic Lover).
In a space carved out somewhere between The Sun City Girls and Savage Republic, with a smidgen of Father Yod thrown in for good measure, Goat have made an album – it follows World Music and Commune – that is as aurally dense as it is compelling and deep. Scaling a fascinating line between Afropop and mystical tribalism the songs have an anthropological in country vibe about them. “I Sing in Silence” is funky, laid back and nuanced enough to pull us further up river as we head to face Kurtz.
Goat make music as inscruitable and enchanting as themselves. To listen to the music of monastic psych-voyagers Goat is to play the part of a detective. Theirs is a stateless, nomadic sound, barely a stampless space on a fully filled passport. Their knotted blend of East and West, African djembe with Funkadelic freakouts, immediately begs questions of origin.
Swedish psych rock collective Goat walk an extremely fine line between novelty act and serious music. Their blatantly preposterous backstory claiming they are members of an obscure voodoo sect from northern Sweden is a silly starting point for a band, but the joke also provides the framework for some truly interesting and charmingly odd sounds. The band perform wearing pseudo-tribal masks, refuse to give their names for interviews and claim to be a leaderless ever-changing collective that’s existed for decades.
Searching for hidden meaning in an album title that suggests some kind of farewell wouldn't be too far removed from the behaviour of, say, a conspiracy theorist convinced that secret messages are contained within the grooves of a record. Of course, it doesn't help that towards the end of this, Goat’s third album, is a track called ‘Goodbye’ – but, taken as whole, Requiem is an album that finds the mysterious Swedes exploring new territories of sound, groove and inspiration while consolidating the psyche-inflected music that has preceded it. Sadly, it doesn't entirely work.