Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 12:00 AM
There is no direct association between mysterious Swedish psychedelicists GOAT and revered Argentinian master of magical realism, Jorge Luis Borges. Yet their mission appears to be the same. Borges generated his ideas from historical curiosities across the globe—gaucho knife duels on the South American plains, Middle Eastern heresiarchs plotting treacheries in secret libraries, Chinese pirates waging wars against the Emperor—and twisted them into fictions that blurred the lines between fortified footnotes and outright fantasy. GOAT’s sound is the sonic manifestation of this principle, as evidenced in their aptly-named debut album World Music, which incorporated elements of Nigerian afrobeat, German krautrock, Anatolian funk, and a host of other global micro-niches into a hallucinatory cultish celebration of rock’s diverse manifestations. Deprived of the requisite band biography, early experiencers World Music’s electrified tribalism and lysergic compositions had the inevitable questions regarding the origin and timeframe of the recordings. The truth only became knottier every time the elusive GOAT collective provided their cryptic answers.
The individual identities involved with the records remain shrouded in mystery: GOAT spokespersons maintain that the group is merely an ongoing multi-generational collective of musicians from the isolated Swedish locality of Korpilombolo. Located north of the Arctic Circle, the town is a junction of native Sami people, Scandinavian settlers, and the rare infiltration of wayfaring outsiders. GOAT’s recorded output is a fermentation of the region’s traditional songs, which are a conglomerate of outside influences culled over the course of the last century. Beyond that, GOAT is willing to divulge very little. The secrecy of the individual members and the dearth of information on Korpilombolo do little to substantiate or refute GOAT’s claims. It’s almost as if GOAT are taking cues from Borges’ short story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, wherein a clandestine enclave of intellectuals attempt to create a new reality by inserting articles on a fictitious foregone state and its puzzling culture into modern encyclopedias. Borges’ secret society wanted their heretical ideologies to infiltrate common thought through an invented past; GOAT wants to revitalize the communal experience of rock music by creating an alternate origin story.
Ultimately, it is GOAT’s music that speaks the most about them, and, on their second album, Commune, GOAT deliver a heavy dose of acidic grooves, hypnotic incantations, and serpentine guitar lines, building on the much-lauded sound of World Music to explore new territories. Starting with the layered percussive groove, Eastern guitar flourishes, and convoking vocals of “Talk To God”, Commune re-establishes the trance-inducing rhythms and exotic blaze of guitar that characterized World Music. That spellbound pulse delves into darker and more propulsive territories on “Words” and “Goatslaves”, while “Goatchild” veers towards the transcendental pop of ‘60s Bay Area rock. The vintage psychedelic vibe permeates through songs like “The Light Within” and “To Travel The Path Unknown”—tracks that suggest that these rural Swedes operate on the same wavelength as the Turkish psych-folkies recently rediscovered by reissue labels like Finders Keepers. Commune reaches its apex when GOAT’s hymnal invocations meet a heavy dose of proto-metal fuzz on “Hide From The Sun” and “Gathering of Ancient Tribes”. Given the band’s lexicon and choice of iconography, it’s tempting to project pagan ritualism onto the sounds conjured by the collective, but the band asserts that the album seeks a more universal spirituality. “GOAT is mainly a symbol of sacrifice. To sacrifice the individual for the collective good. To become one with the rest of humanity and universe,” said one unnamed GOAT co-conspirator in a rare piece of correspondence.
“We often talk about how all music is
world music and all other genres are old fashioned,” the collective member
continued. “All you can hear is the universal similarity between all music. The
music from some old cult in northern Sweden can be the same as the music from
wherever.” And with that philosophy, GOAT is propagating their crossbred music
and mysticism by sharing Commune with
the entire world via Seattle indie stalwart Sub Pop Records, and touring the
globe relentlessly into 2015. And while we’ll never see GOAT’s faces on the
cover of a glossy magazine, their intoxicating conjurations are poised to
infiltrate our collective psyche with the subversive magical allure of a