By Garrett Strickler
Released: Sept. 23, 2014
Label: Sub Pop
This is not your sister’s psych-rock album. This is not music for wearing flowers in your hair and frolicking in a field taking Instagram pictures.
Goat is not a band that plays music festivals in a park while you drink a $6 beer and “Commune” is not an album for high schoolers to listen to the first time they try “illicit substances.”
This is entering the void of ego dissociation and subconscious exploration.
This is staring into the abyss as it stares back into you. Played at the appropriate volume (very, very, very loud), this is spine-tingling, face-melting, reality-destroying psychedelic eruption.
Though the influences of the composition would suggest a distinctly American lineage going back to summer-of-love pioneers like Hendrix, Morrison and Santana, Goat hails from Sweden. Understanding that the band works from the position of an outside admirer and reinterpreter makes both their attention to detail and their unique flourishes on a storied, and often misinterpreted, genre all the more intriguing.
While the guitars and occasionally the bass are given special attention at certain points, they never veer too far off from the roots of the songs’ progressions, giving the album as a whole a tone of repetition. Riffs and melodies feel more like mantras and recitations rather than independent expressions.
While the lyrics are mostly shouted and indecipherable, and the music is mostly accessible and inviting, there are undoubtedly undertones of spirituality, and not necessarily in a pleasant sense. Goat was definitely playing with Ouija boards and spinning Led Zeppelin records backwards as kids, and they create an environment that allows listeners to perhaps do the same with their own music. That isn’t to say that listening to the record is to summon demons or even that the album is necessarily dark, but it is worth noting that Goat clearly takes their ambivalent shaman aesthetic pretty seriously.
“Commune” is essentially constructed as a series of melodic meditations, meeting somewhere between dissonance and consonance. These range from low, murmuring, spoken word trance rhythms to all-out guitar shredding and speaker-bursting exhilaration. The range of sounds is deceptively wide due to the band’s commitment to analog production and mostly mid-level tempo, but the hallmark of the record is in it’s moderation.
During emotional peaks on songs like “Hide From the Sun” and “Talk to God” a lesser band might have been unable to resist maxing out levels across the board. However, Goat is judicious with the mixing, content to keep drums and vocals at conservative levels. This restraint ends up aging the music to sound more authentically psychedelic, and more importantly, keeps the songs from completely overwhelming the listener.
Songs as raucous and fervid as these could easily run the risk of over stimulation, but Goat manages to skirt right along that line, allowing you to see over the cliff and into the void without ever falling in, or worse, deciding to walk away.
Though first and foremost a psychedelic rock record, “Commune” never sounds like it can truly be pigeonholed into one specific style. The album title of the band’s previous record, “World Music” speaks to the scope of influence that the group takes. And while this album does contemplate heavy, unorthodox spiritual themes, it doesn’t exclude itself from listenability.
“Commune” might not be the album that you burn for your girlfriend, but you’ll be hard pressed to find another record released this year that feels as good blast down the highway.