As a poor college student, it’s rare that I enjoy an album enough to buy a physical copy. It’s even farther out to find consecutive releases from the same act gracing my record crates, which is why I’m thrilled to say that the Swedish band GOAT’s third and potentially final album, "Requiem," will be finding its home tucked snugly behind my copies of 2012’s "World Music" and 2014’s "Commune."
Who is GOAT? That’s a damn good question. The closing track on the group’s sophomore effort "Commune" gives meaning to the acronym: "Gathering of Ancient Tribes." GOAT’s Afro-Oriental psych-rock certainly sounds like the tribal peoples of history (including the Deadheads) coalesced for one giant (insert-your-psychedelic-drug-of-choice)-fueled jam session.
The Gothenburg-based band, which has never revealed its members identities, performs in homemade robes and masks resembling any number of cultures. They tell an official origin story to complement their face-melting fusion sound. Their original members supposedly come from Korpilombolo, Sweden, where music plays a huge part of the rural town’s culture (think Elkins, WV, for example).
The young GOAT members learned to play communally with the elder musicians as they grew up, claiming that the band has existed in various incarnations for decades. They say that centuries ago, a witch doctor came to live in Korpilombolo and introduced the villagers to a style of voodoo ritual. Their music, and anonymity, is rooted in this spiritual practice as a means of transcendence.
"For us, it’s easier to play better when you don’t have any focus on yourself as a person," a representative of the group told Noisey’s Beverly Bryan in a recent interview.
GOAT seeks to rise above the individual ego—a common quest in psychedelic culture—in order to improve their relationships and mentality and unite with each other.
Spoken-word samples throughout the group’s recordings provide us with a rich collection of mantras to meditate on this theme of oneness, from the second track they ever released, "Goatman," to the final track on "Requiem," "Ubuntu." This final piece begins with a four minute-long discussion of ubuntu, the African philosophy of human kindness, before recalling the main riff of their very first song on "World Music," "Diarabi."
Other critics have speculated that the track prior to "Ubuntu," "Goodbye" is the band’s way of signing off from the world of music. Julian Marszalek wrote for the Quietus that "GOAT have backed themselves into a cul-de-sac with little room to maneuver." Having exhausted their repertoire of heavy guitar parts and turned to acoustic experimentation as a means of breaking new ground, it seems likely they may fold.
The member who spoke to Noisey even said, "If it ended tomorrow I would be fine with it, and to think like that is what really makes me enjoy it while it lasts."
This peaceful secession shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone though. It fits perfectly into the group’s mystical worldview. Closing with the riff from "Diarabi" just completes the circle.
Ever since hearing the scorching West African-style guitar riff that opens that debut release, GOAT’s music has been seared into the deepest parts of my brain, but maybe it’s always been there. Maybe it’s there in your mind too, and everyone who can see beyond themselves, waiting to be born again. If one thing is certain, GOAT doesn’t just write music, they channel it.