Well worth the ride you’ll take.
If you didn’t know better you’d be forgiven for thinking that Goat was one of those bands plucked from the annals of obscurity and brought into the light thanks to some boutique label prepared to right history and give the forgotten a new voice. The Swedish band is, of course, steeped in mystery, performing in masks and claiming to have originated from a town with voodoo in its blood. The group’s 2012 World Music LP suggested something that might have come from somewhere in Africa or even the Middle East; exotic rhythms and melodies created a swoon-worthy atmosphere that was as impressive as it was exhilarating. The only thing that truly marked that music as of its time was a precision that called to mind the age of computerized recording and click tracks.
This new effort, Requiem— a double set no less—carries a looseness that takes us deeper into the world-music aesthetic. Pieces such as “I Sing in Silence” and “Trouble in the Streets” have a spontaneity and joyousness to them that springs forth in the first notes and lasts until the very final measures. The organic flavor is enhanced thanks to a heavy reliance on acoustic instruments and avoidance of overstuffed production. Of course, it helps that we can’t be entirely certain what the singers are saying, providing an extra dose of mystery that keeps us listening and wondering if the lyrics are cause for celebration or protest.
There is a heaviness, though, that comes across in the primal drum beats of “Temple Rhythms,” the Sabbath-y crawl of “Alarms” and through the three epic numbers that carry us out of the temple of Goat: “Goatfuzz” (Sabbath goes acoustic), “Goodbye” (Goat stops off at the Mos Eisley Cantina) and “Ubuntu” (a solemn prayer via found sounds and pulsing, minimalistic charms).
In addition to the insistent, enchanting rhythms, there are also gorgeous, African-inspired guitar figures throughout, especially on “Psychedelic Lover” and “It’s Not Me.” “Goatband,” meanwhile, suggests the most bright-burning, gut-punching moments of Fairport Convention as channeled by Can at the peak of its powers, with flourishes of prog blended in just to keep matters interesting. The tune, and the others that surround it, sound cohesive despite their eclectic nature, providing us with a strong and singular sense of what Goat truly stands for.
The record does sometimes lack the full-on impact of the studio outings that have preceded it, but that’s a small detail. Hearing the group work its way in and out of some compositional problems here and there gives the listener all the joy and surprise of hearing an improvisational jazz unit do the same. What’s more, the group works it out more tunefully, more thoughtfully than most, such that the wealth of material never wears us out.
It’s not impossible to enjoy Requiem on the first go-around, though the record does reward deeper and repeated listens as we find the sweetest of the sweet spots and the most rewarding of the challenging passages.
Can the group go on forever, maintaining this mystique? Why not. In the end, it’s the music that matters and Goat seems to know this from the tips of its sharp feet to the top of its pointy horns. Well worth the ride you’ll take. Oh, and when you’re done with this one, you’ll want to climb back on and explore the prior records as they offer a deeper understanding of what Goat’s all about.