On paper, Goat sound like a comically terrible idea for a band. They perform in masks and flowing robes, and claim to hail from the remote northern Swedish village of Korpilombolo, where they emerged less as a band than as a collective which has supposedly handed its identity down to new members over the decades.
Their line-up is a mystery, and Goat give the impression that different members drift in and out of recording sessions: anyone who happens to be there when the band is making music is part of the band. This might sound like a bad parody of a bunch of amateurish hippies making unfocussed music, but the origin story is almost certainly not true, and the music is too good to have been played and recorded by so loose a collective.
Nevertheless, they’ve kept up their mythology as far as their third album, their biggest and most expansive release to date. In fact, it might be their mythology that has allowed them to grow as a band. By claiming to come from the unknowable location of Korpilombolo, somewhere so small and far-flung that it’s almost not of this world, Goat ensure that nothing inherently of this world is expected of them. They have reduced themselves to a blank slate, one that they can dress up in masks and robes, and onto which they can project different sounds, senses and places.
In their third album that projection is more expansive. It’s billed as a double album: something of a meaningless term at a point in time when music is most commonly listened to digitally and in the physical arena the fashion for 180gm vinyl means that a 40-minute album often spans two discs, but it has that sprawling spirit. It also feels as though it has more of a global vision, albeit one that takes the form of a pastiche.
Goat called their debut album World Music, a title that seems to have been intended less as a 20 Jazz Funk Greats style misnomer than as a statement of ambition. That’s an ambition that is easy enough to realise – as the classic criticism of the world music genre goes, surely all music is world music – but in Requiem there are forays into global styles. Try My Robe becomes a heavy raga, sounding like the product of someone having too much hash in Varanasi. Trouble In The Streets sticks so closely to the essentials of Afrobeat and desert blues that for a brief moment it sounds as though Goat might actually be sampling Amadou & Mariam. Closing track Ubuntu incorporates clips of southern Africans talking about spirituality, but the ambient electronic piano that backs them could be from any place.
In a way, this chimes nicely with the Kosmiche mythology of Krautrock and latter day psychedelia, both of which lurk in the background of Goat’s music. The melange of styles and places and the faceless musicians responsible for the music are suggestive of a vast otherworldliness that’s sifting the surfaces of the earth for nuggets of what it means to make music on this planet. Hence we hear chanting and birdsong, intense drumming, pipes, saxophones, and possibly a kazoo and a sample of a muezzin.
But strip all of these layers back and in many cases you find fairly conventional blues-rock songs; All-seeing Eye is the most obvious of these. Goat’s core reference points in fact seem to be pretty canonical: Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, early Pink Floyd. The chants, pipes and Afrobeat guitars might be facades, just like the masks and robes, but it doesn’t matter because the music underneath has real heart and soul.