Goat: the enigmatic Swedish collective
The avant-garde fusion music of this mysterious group from a small village in Sweden makes them unique
In an interview in 2018 with It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine—yes, there is such a publication and it’s respected by musicians across a wide spectrum of genres—Goatman, the presumed leader of the Swedish band Goat, was asked about the origins and formation of his band, one of the most mysterious ensembles in the world. He said: “It’s always been there. Like a family. Like a cult of music and free love.” In another interview with The Guardian (in 2016), he told the interviewer that his shamanic group actually goes back two centuries.
To describe Goat, based in the northern Swedish village of Korpilombolo, as an enigmatic band would be an understatement. None of the band members’ real names are known. They have rarely been seen—either at performances or otherwise—without elaborate, voodoo-esque tribal masks and costumes. The band structure resembles that of a collective. Goatman has gone on record to say that the number of members runs into the thousands, but that is probably a statement in line with the anonymity and hyped-up mystery that the band contrives to conjure up about itself.
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Although not much is known about Goat, a recurring rumour is that they may be an evolving incarnation of a voodoo-worshipping group whose roots could go back not two centuries, as Goatman boasted, but at least three decades.
One thing that is not contrived or fake, however, is the music Goat make. Their sound is boundary-less, experimental and so full of different influences that it can be difficult to pigeonhole them into any known genre. Their brand of fusion involves everything from African, Middle-Eastern and Indian sounds to jazz, funk and rock. All of it delivered in a form where psychedelia forms an integral part.
Goat’s live performances are highly charged affairs where the electric energy flows fast and furious and improvisations and jamming are de rigueur. To get a taste of their live shows, check out a full concert of theirs from 2013 on YouTube. All the band members are masked, including the two frontwomen singers in flowing kaftan-like robes who dance dervish-like with tambourines. The other members of the band wear feathered costumes, capes and flowing dresses. But the music! The guitar-driven music is like a mash-up of early 1960s to 1970s’ psychedelic rock with Eastern music and other unexpected influences thrown in.
On Requiem, their grand double album from 2016, the styles segue from Afropop to 1960s Californian hippy pop to fuzzy Hendrix-style blues rock. On 2013’s Live Ballroom Ritual, they sound like a pagan voodoo-worshipping cult whose music teems with mystery but is also loaded with psychotropic layers. It offers a good glimpse of what Goat are all about. A uniquely trippy band.
Songs such as the opener, Diarabi, showcase Middle-Eastern folk fused with spacey electric lead guitar riffs; in Disco Fever, a danceable track, disco is mated with Afrobeat-style singing; in Let It Bleed, an extended saxophone solo over a layer of complex percussion takes you on a never-ending trip while the women singers wail lyrics that you can make what you want of (example: I’m faded, I touch the block/ Machine gun, through the lot/ They walking past, famous peep/ Gotta go, let it bleed).
Goat’s latest full-length is not new. It dates back to 2017 and is a compilation of tracks from live shows. Titled Fuzzed In Europe (Live), it is a great album to start exploring the band with because it best demonstrates the strongest attributes of the mystery band: harmonised female vocals; pan-world percussion; tribal and primitive music from various cultures; and the ubiquitous presence of fuzzy psychedelic guitar riffs. Also, it has some of Goat’s best-crafted songs, with the additional bonus of them being performed live.
Start with the opener, Talk To God, on which a wah-wah enriched guitar riff hooks you from the beginning. Or check out Run To Your Mama, where a fast-paced drum and percussion opening leads to the two vocalists’ wafting style of singing, in Afrobeat style, repeating just one verse (Rolling with the rain/ Boy you better run to your mama now/ Lightning in the sky/ Boy you better run to your mama now).
Their most recent releases are two singles, Let It Burn and Friday, Pt. 1. In Let It Burn, tribal drum beats lead to a distinctively old-school funk-style guitar riff and a folksy flute solo to create a sort of avant-garde dance music that is trippy as well as foot-tapping. In Friday, Pt. 1, the mood changes dramatically. It’s a jazz-style, saxophone-fuelled, slowed-down meditation that is at once spiritual and relaxing.
Goat are an unusual band. And because of their effort to stay anonymous (the masks and costumes and complete absence anywhere of the names of the band members or their biographies) and shrouded in a haze (consider Goatman’s interviews, in which he spews egregious pseudo-facts about the band, its origin, size and so on), they have been off the radar of most music aficionados. But there aren’t many bands that are as original as this enigmatic Swedish collective.
Many may dismiss their elaborate efforts to be anonymous and their rare and misleading media appearances as a marketing gimmick but it is their music—a cauldron of exotic influences all bound together in a psychedelic stupor—that makes Goat a band you should not miss.
The Lounge list of five tracks from Goat to bookend your week
1. Let It Burn (single)
2. Talk To God from Fuzzed In Europe (Live)
3. Run To Your Mama from Fuzzed In Europe (Live)
4. Psychedelic Lover from Requiem
5. Diarabi from Live Ballroom Ritual
First Beat is a column on what’s new and groovy in the world of music.
FIRST PUBLISHED06.02.2021 | 11:30 AM IST