Goat: Requiem (Sub Pop) Review

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Courtesy of Sub Pop

This past summer, after poring over the first two albums by Swedish psychedelic Afrobeat revivalists Goat for the past four years or so, I finally got to see them live in concert. They did not disappoint in the slightest. If anything, I was more won over than ever, because their performance was as riveting as it was bizarre. Colorful costumes and makeup added to the band’s mystery, but the music was never secondary.

Goat are back, with a brand new album out Oct. 7 on Sub Pop, their second for the Seattle-based label.

Requiem is a natural progression from their stellar first record, World Music, to their second, Commune, and if those didn’t blow you away, this one likely won’t, either. Clocking in at over an hour long, Requiem is a journey through the groovier side of psychedelia via African beats and motifs, featuring their patented chanted vocals and interlocking guitar parts.

There is perhaps more of an emphasis on melody for this record than we’ve heard before, such as in “Trouble in the Streets,” which sounds sort of like a less slick song that could’ve been on Paul Simon’s Graceland. Not to worry, though, this isn’t Goat’s “breakthrough pop record” by any stretch; they remain firmly entrenched in the wild voodoo that is firmly part of their history (legend has it the band comes from a town in Sweden where Christian crusaders killed a voodoo witch doctor, and his followers placed a curse on the town in the wake of the violence).

The first half dozen songs of Requiem are a great introduction to the band and the album, with shorter songs that ease you into Goat’s world (or remind you of how great they are, if you’ve already visited). Then they slowly begin to unleash the longer, groovier jams that they’re so well known for, the ones where you can close your eyes and imagine yourself at a Fela Kuti show in the ‘70s. “Goatband” is nearly eight minutes long, and explores a great jam without driving it into the ground, before returning to a handful of shorter songs again, and then rounding out the album with three more extended psychedelic Afrobeat experiments. “Goatfuzz,” despite its name being maybe a little too on the nose, is the best of these, showcasing how heavy the band can get while still exploring polyrhythms and interesting soundscapes.

The strangest thing about Goat, and Requiem in particular, is how, well, strange some of the music is on the surface, and yet how utterly traditional it all really is at the root of what they’re accomplishing. Highly recommended stuff for listeners with open ears, or just the groove-curious.

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Bryon Dudley is a writer and musician from Ames. He has written about music and other topics for a number of local publications and blogs. When not playing music and putting out albums with groups such as Strong Like Bear, Liana, and Rockets of Desire, he is helping other Iowa artists record their music at his studio, The Spacement, and releasing it on the Iowa label he co-founded, Nova Labs. He has a tattoo of an aardvark and is adjusting to bifocals.