Review Summary: Let the rhythm flow through you.
If I were to sum up the 2010s in a single word, I’d lovingly use the term “revivalism.” And while every one of us has heard similar terms used ad nauseam to describe certain bands, that doesn’t mean we should discount the importance of the "neo-genre" in today’s musical landscape. More and more, artists are beginning to wear their influences more as a badge than as something to be ashamed of or to be lambasted for. I bring this up because the Swedish group Goat is often given this descriptor, and I feel there’s a stigma that comes with it. When you brand a genre “’something-or-other’ revival,” it’s discounting the creativity and originality a group can bring to the table. Goat’s Requiem is a prime example of such; a landmark album that brings the band’s particular brand of afro-infused psych to previously untraversed ground.
Requiem’s hour-long runtime could signal the alarms in many a music lover’s head. Longer records tend to have copious amounts of filler just waiting to be discovered. Fortunately, the album doesn’t overstay its welcome, providing listeners with a tightly-made sonic wonderland without any of the unneeded pit stops. The production on Requiem is noticeably fuller than their previous releases (especially the sparseness of their 2nd album Commune). This production shift reflects the bands development from straight psych rock to a sound more influenced by folk. With this shift in style, we find a lusher range of instrumentation being utilized. There are very few instances of grinding guitars on this record. Instead, we find more emphasis on tribal percussion and ethereal vocals. On the track “Trouble in the Streets,” we hear just how well this blend of these instruments can play off each other; producing one of the happiest songs about atomic bombs I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. Another highlight is the strange spoken-word/minimalist hybrid “Ubuntu,” named after the African philosophy of sharing to connect with each other.
Now, those of you who enjoyed the band’s guitar-driven sound will be pleased to hear that tracks like “All-Seeing Eye” and “Goatband” do harken back to Goat’s roots as a rock-oriented collective. But what really stole the spotlight on this album are the more experimental cuts (“Ubuntu,” “Temple Rhythms,” “Djorolen/Union of Sun and Moon”). In fact, I would have been ecstatic to hear even more unconventional rhythms and stranger vocal performances. That’s not to discredit the album, as I did enjoy it immensely; I personally would have preferred a more eclectic assortment of arrangements as opposed to having a few tracks blend together due to their underlying similarities. “It’s Not Me” is a particularly weak track on the album, with very little drive to it. Still, it’s but a slight blemish on an otherwise fantastic record.
Despite my criticisms, Requiem is quite honestly the best Goat album to date. Here, they ride the line between melodic and jarring all the way to the finish line. When listening to this album for the first time, I had the stupidest grin splayed across my face. It’s one of the slickest psych rock albums in recent memory without a doubt. Even the weaker tracks here don’t take away from the fantastic moments found all throughout. Requiem is a bright beam of sunlight teaming with life and joy to share with all who listen; it’s the breeze that takes you up and quiets your troubled mind. All you have to do is just let it flow through you.