Wednesday, September 24, 2014

GOAT - Commune (Rocket/Sub Pop/Stranded 2014)

Gathering of Ancient Tribes art by KOJAK


(Rocket Recordings/Sub Pop/Stranded 2014)

commune 1 |ˈkämˌyoōn|
1 a group of people living together and sharing possessions and responsibilities.

commune 2 |kəˈmyoōn| |kəˈmjun| |kəˈmjuːn|
verb [ intrans. ]
1 ( commune with) share one's intimate thoughts or feelings with someone or something, esp. when the exchange is on a spiritual level

     For the uninitiated, GOAT is a shamanistic psychedelic music collective from Arctic Sweden who just might be the best band around right now.  A steadily growing number of hypnotized devotees would agree. Since they emerged from the ether two years ago, few bands (if any) have been burning hotter, pushing further, or digging deeper than GOAT. They have a fantastical origin story, and their rise from obscurity has been absolutely fascinating to watch unfold, but it's too long of a story to tell here. Luckily i've been doing all of the legwork and chronicling their career since their debut so you can get caught up to speed.  Check it all out HERE.  It's worth it.

     GOAT's new album, Commune, is the sound of a frighteningly confident and talented band going full supernova. As crazy as it may seem, this album has evolved far beyond its brain-melting predecessor, World Music (which just happens to be one of the best albums of the last decade in case you weren't aware). Commune is even more diverse, performed even more masterfully, with warmer and richer production. Every raw edge has been shaped and formed to precision. Creatively, GOAT has broken through to an entirely different dimension, drawing from an even deeper well of influences than they were before... exotic sounds and styles from every remote corner of the globe, boiled down to their most primal core, and cranked to the point of spontaneous combustion. Technically, the band members have developed to a point where they can pull off just about anything their minds can conjure up.  Most notable are the strong performances from the anonymous dueling guitarists--among the very best in the world, in my opinion--and the bassist, who is on a John Paul Jones-level trajectory. These elements are combined with their trance-inducing percussion and the hair-raising wails of the twin priestess vocalists to create a limitless sound unlike anything else out there. Tranced out dance music from the past, beamed in from the future. As if that wasn't enough, GOAT continues to tap deeply into something that few others are even conscious of... an ancient tribal mysticism from a time far different than our modern day technological hamster wheel culture...traveling to the spirit world and returning to relay what was found... a strong sense of community where everyone tunes into each other on a far deeper level, attempting to create something together that no one individual could ever in a million lifetimes achieve.  It's a welcomed perspective in such a depressing, cynical time.


     The album opens with a tolling temple bell, slowly fading in with each ring.  It is a meditational introduction to clear your mind and align your focus... Commune is one of those mesmerizing, perfectly sequenced travelogue albums that will pick you up and carry you to exotic lands, if you let it.  The more attention you pay, the more you will find.  Headphones are a must.

     "Talk To God" lifts off with hypnotic, cyclical guitar riffs that echo the sounds of the Tuareg -- Saharan desert nomads and their modern ambassadors Tinariwen, Bombino, and Terakaft.  Images of vast desert expanses float in... camel caravans off on the horizon.  The guitars magically weave through eachother for what seems like forever, in no hurry at all, in complete defiance of typical Western song structure.  and really, that's kind of GOAT's defining trait... zoning off for waaaaaayyyy longer than most while attempting to achieve transcendence through repetition.  At one point, the guitars and vocals drop out and all that is left is that sick Rickenbacker bassline and percussion gnawing at eachother.  It's an eyes-rolled-back-in-the-head moment and for the rest of the track, everything warps together into a hazy mirage.

     "Words" is quintessential GOAT... an ancient war drum beat, summoning a fucking colossus out of the earth... phased guitar spiraling into infinity... white hot guitar leads stabbing in and out... this is GOAT distilled to laser precision, unrelentingly driving itself into your head like a railroad spike.  Live, this song will turn a crowd into a delirious mass.

     Shifting gears completely, "Light Within" is a piece of Latin space rock, with a slinky samba vibe.  This tune pushes out GOAT's already boundary-less sound to something far more refined than they were capable of on World Music.  The musicianship is top shelf, and an attentive ear can appreciate the brilliant final mix with light touches of finger-picked acoustic guitar and vibraphone threaded throughout.

     "To Travel the Paths Unknown" is a brief instrumental meditation to chill things out for a moment. Effects drip off of the guitar and what sounds to me like a strummed banjo, bringing Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western muzak to mind.

     This transition leads into the serpentine funk of "Goatchild."  For the first time, we hear men's voices in a mating dance call-and-response with the girls, singing about getting together for some free love.  Things get steamy with layers of 70s porno wah guitar solos stacked on top of one another as the song washes out in a tantric sex blur.  The goatchild is conceived.  Classic.

     "Goatslaves" blazes by like a comet... Everything is fused together tighter than ever before and the girls reach through the speakers and shout "Dying for Freedom/Dying for peace/Too many people live on their knees." Blistering stuff, and should rightly be the band's next single.

     "Hide From the Sun" has an entrancing Middle Eastern sound, reminiscent of  Turkish psych funk pioneer Baris Manco. The mood is more ominous,  with an off-kilter rhythm and a savage fuzzed out guitar solo.

    Named for the creator deity from Haitian Voodoo mythology, "Bondye" aims straight for the psyched out center of it all.  This instrumental is based on a rhythm similar to those found in rural Thailand, recently represented to a larger audience by Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band.  GOAT thrives on the merging of sounds that have never been put together before, so of course there are Gothic Americana fiddle solos flying around with more fuzzed out wah guitar to top it all off.  They make a perfect fit.

     The album's majestic finale, "Gathering Of Ancient Tribes," (note the acronym) brings things back around full circle to the expansive sounds of the opening track, but this is even more focused.  The intensity continues to build higher and higher, and when the girls are screaming "Into the Fire!!" it sounds less like a condemnation than it is an invitation to join them in the flames.  The track totally breaks open here, and all of the tension the band has built up over the course of the album is released in a mind blowing finale.  The tolling temple bell from the beginning comes back around and brings the album to a silent close.

     Commune, comes with considerably more interest and attention than World Music when it first appeared in 2012. Maybe even bordering on hype. With North American distribution this time around (finally) from the mighty Sub Pop, GOAT will have a unique opportunity to spread their gospel to a far wider audience than ever before. And as they have done at every step of their evolving career so far, Goat effortlessly rises to the occasion, unhindered by any outside force or pressure.  They are already in uncharted waters, it will be interesting to see where they navigate to from here.

Buy the album HERE in North America via Sub Pop,  and HERE via Rocket Recordings everywhere else

     GOAT is in the midst of their first ever extended European tour, and if you haven't witnessed one of their rare live rituals, I highly recommend trying your best to change that.  The shows are taking on mythic proportions.  If you can't, here is a taste of what you are missing: 

GOAT just released their first ever official video and it's fantastic.  directed by Sam Macon

For those of you who weren't able to get a copy of the limited edition 7" included with the Commune vinyl, here is the bonus track, "Dig My Grave."  Not only should this have been on the album, it should have been a single!  oh, those tasty guitars never get old...

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art and writing by KOJAK

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