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Goat
Commune Danny Riley , August 22nd, 2014 12:29

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 should be given full credit for inspiring this sense of meaning and excitement; the album that follows is no stylistic leap forward for the band, yet it still exercises a deeply persuasive power over your head and hips. They largely stick to the heavy, kinetic, afro-influenced rock that proved such a winning formula, the only obvious developments being that the guitarists seem to be taking more cues from desert-rockers like Tamikrest and Tinariwen, and the songs show an increasing preference for subtlety over immediacy in the hooks department. Yet despite the apparent lack of new ideas here, the undeniable success of this work lies in Goat's deepening and development of the musical and spiritual themes presented on in World Music.

And I'd go as far as to argue that Commune is very much a spiritually informed record. Whilst Goat hinted at a certain kind of gently cosmic, communal worldview via the obscure vocal samples on their debut, on this record their spiritual statement feels much more pronounced. Not only can this be seen in the song titles (opener 'Talk To God', 'The Light Within') and the appearance of more vocal samples ("There is only one meaning of life, and that is to be a positive force in the constant creation of evolution" – woah there!), but it's also evident in the production. Instruments are slathered in embalming-chamber reverb, ritualistic hand percussion is laced through almost every track, and the more laidback atmosphere means that instead of getting party-starting booty-shakers like 'Run To Your Mama' we get absorbing, contemplative grooves like the headspinning rhythms of 'Hide From The Sun' and 'Bondye', an instrumental track named after a voodoo deity which realises the trance-inducing implications of repetition. When Goat first emerged listeners may have been unsure about the sincerity of their transcendental allusions, and I for one suspected that their flirting with hippy ideologies was a self-conscious part of their selling point. However, with Commune, I'm now convinced this band genuinely have something to say. On tracks like 'Goatslaves' for example, you can actually make out quite easily what the vocalists are singing, and the message is direct: "Too many people living on their knees", yell the female voices over a stern, militant beat. "Dying of freedom, Dying of peace".

There are some fuzz tones that are just so gnarly and righteous that they make you glad to be alive. Lots of guitarists nearly get there but there's no mistaking it when you hear that perfect analogue crunch. Tortured, writhing sound-buzzes so crusty and mangled that they sound as if the distortion pedal has been buried underground for six months, making a solo sound like it's trying to break free from the speakers. For me, the most successful examples of this sound include Dark on their album Round The Edges, almost anything by Swedish guitarist Reine Fiske and the almighty solo towards the end of 'Hi Babe' by Zamrockers Ngozi Family. A review of this record would be amiss if I failed to commend the absolutely stonking fuzzed-up guitar solo that hits halfway through 'Hide From The Sun', the album's lead single, which surely deserves a place in this illustrious canon. Nestling stylistically in a place between Omar Khorshid and Tony Iommi, it rips mercilessly through the track's disorienting metre, and may well encourage listeners to stare into the distance with a purposeful look on their face. Fans will be glad to hear that there are plenty more of those moments to be had with this album – see the taut, fidgety funk of 'The Light Within' and the pleasantly pastoral flute on 'To Travel The Path Unknown' amongst others.

Goat stand out from the rest of the contemporary psych crowd as an undeniably modern, internet-age band in that they create their own successful and popular sound by synthesising a plethora of B-musics and fringe influences made easily available through the work of labels like Finders Keepers and Sublime Frequencies. Yet Commune is so much more than record-collector rock. Album closer 'Gathering Of The Ancient Tribes', in a stylistic echo of the first track 'Talk To God' features a lattice of Malian-sounding guitars offset against heavy bass and insistent beats, before dissipating into a haze of guitar noise, organ drone and that same meddlesome temple bell. It's details like this that prove Goat are clearly concerned with more than flogging a tasteful blend of trendy influences – Commune is a truly artistic statement.

 

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