Goat's "World Music" Re-Issued
A 10th Anniversary Reissue Re-Mastered At Abbey Road
The mythology that has been purposefully built up around Goat is sparse but compelling. An anonymous masked voodoo collective playing psychedelic afrobeat-tinged rock, from a village called Korpilombolo in northern Sweden? It’s a nice yarn, and whether it is true or not seems irrelevant when the potency of the music itself blows away the need for a good origin story. (It turns out they actually are from northern Sweden.)
If you have seen Goat perform live, you will know that the mythology does not matter. My first encounter with the band was in a giant tent in Victoria Park, London, but I may as well have been an unknowing initiate in some vast space ritual. Do the masks and costumes mean anything, produce any difference in response in a dumbstruck first-time listener? Yes, because you are not watching rock stars, personalities, or even performers. The dead eyes behind those masks are sharing the trance with you. The almost static instrumentalists are inducting you into a rite. The tiny prancing female singers are sprites with demonic hearts. The fizzing guitars and accented djembes levitate over a lumbering, swampy rhythm section. You have little idea what the words mean, but the visceral impact is overflowing with meaning.
Goat usually leave me with more questions than answers, which, in any case, is how I prefer things. Attempting to define a single genre for this band is hopelessly reductive. If Goat are psychedelic rock, they are also rasping funk, and if some songs feel like stoned acoustic jams, others sound like midnight chants of the desert blues. Goat are broad-minded in sonic terms too; fuzzed-out riffs, pulsing distorted basslines and squealing phased guitars might simply imply 70s rawk, but Goat are considerably more diverse in their sound. Their sonic palette pays tribute to West African artists such as Oumou Sangaré, Fela Kuti or Tinariwen, while still sounding as though Hawkwind might cheerfully step in for a jam.
“Jam” is a word that may deter some listeners who seek a perfected studio creation, and I would not assert that World Music is a pristine sonic artifact. I struggle to imagine that would ever have been the intention; the rawness and authenticity of World Music, and above all the feeling of an especially fervent jam session are palpably transmitted by this recording. It sounds great, but it doesn’t sound perfect, and I doubt such a shifting, evolving groove lends itself to studio perfectionism. You can hear the room, you can feel the reverb from the amps pressing on the walls, you can detect switches clicking open. Above all you can sense the untamed volume required to summon the forces between this locked-in collective of musicians.
This 10th Anniversary repress is more dynamic, and much clearer. It allows the fuzzy, gutsy nature of the music to pass through undiluted. My earlier pressing possessed a brittle top end in places. This new version is a smoother reproduction of audio but is just as raw and confrontational in musical and sonic terms as you would expect from Goat. Digital versions confirm that some high frequency distortion in the original recordings is not merely a mastering issue or pressing faults in the vinyl production process. This new version is pleasingly unblemished. The bass has greater feel and punch, the chanted vocals demand your attention, and mid-range instruments such as organ and the ubiquitous sizzling guitar lines grab at the ear without the occasional ripping sensations of the original.
In presentational terms, Rocket Recordings set a high bar with their releases. It is a thrill to see World Music reappear in this new version with sumptuous chromatic variants on the original die-cut cover and the interlocking patterned inner sleeve. My earlier version was a good-looking custard-yellow pressing. The newly remastered version is a transparent yellow disc with green streaks and looks magnificent. Surface noise is minimal in comparison to the earlier disc (which was fairly good anyway) and the pressing is clean, bright and punchy. If you have an older copy, and you played it to death so that it now sounds like sandpaper, you should pick up the remastered version and enjoy the rebirth of this album. If you have an older, slightly crispy-sounding pressing, get the new one and turn the volume up with no fear of a gritty top end. If you do not have a physical copy of this album, now is the time to explore the early recordings of Goat in a finer sonic manifestation.
Goat's new album, Oh Death, was released in November 2022 by Rocket Recordings.