Sunday, June 16, 2024

Goat Girl’s ‘Below The Waste’ Proves The South-London Rockers Aren’t Shy In The Face Of Musical Experimentation

The circa 2016 Rough Trade signees have been on a musical journey quite incomparable to their contemporaries. For Lottie Pendlebury (Leads Vocals and Guitar), Ellie Rose Davies (Guitar and Occasional Lead Vocals), Holly Mullineaux (Bass) and Rosy Jones (Drums) the consistent approach to textured and experimental instrumentation, vocal harmonies and songcraft has seen them turn heads as from the release of the fuzzed out, angular angst of their self-titled 2018 debut, through to the sprawling kaleidoscope of sophomore release ‘On All Fours’.
With their long-awaited third release ‘Below the Waste’, you have Goat Girl now even further uprooted and wandering through a landscape of sounds and experimentations. 
The shape of things to come for album three lingers tentatively with the opening‘reprise’, a long, droning collaboration of moody guitar, occasional banjo, bone-shaking bass synth, sliding vocal harmonies and an anxious clicking that lingers in the background. It acts as the album's primer, a collection of sounds and motifs acting as the doorway through which to enter. This suspense altogether shatters with the angular gut-punch return of first single teaser‘ride around’, a track composed in its first half by dualities; dissonant call and response of guitar riff and crushing bass and synth; and glistening guitar arpeggios and staccato drums. In the latter half, fuzzed out guitar lines join with a rhythmic horn section, all soon after heralding a now changed melody, where all instrumentation collides with the group's vocal harmonies, lock-stepping on the off-beat in a mesmeric dance. It’s not surprising this track became their first album teaser.  
Next comes one of the most beautiful Goat Girl tracks to date, ‘words fell out’. Defined under more rigid song structure, it nonetheless showcases Goat Girls’ ability to dish out the hauntingly beautiful; steady drums and bass, swinging synth line, circling guitars rounded off by the chamber-reverb of Pendlebury’s delicate vocals. 
Moving back into more anxious territories, ‘play it down’ allows Mullineaux’s bass work to take centre stage, while droning bass synth and Pendlebury’s eerie calls to“Feed me to the ground” repeat in a dreary motion. Tasteful drumming and textured synth overlays feed the rest of the track, creating an altogether unsettling motion towards‘tcnc’, the most musically disparate track on the album. Rather than the usual fare Goat Girl have made themselves known for, this track is defined by blaring, blistering synth melody and bombastic spoken word efforts by Ellie Rose Davies. Arguably the total musical shift works somewhat against the broader style of the album, though the deliberate attempt to foster new sounds considering their adept experimentations with songcraft is at the very least appreciable.‘where’s ur <3’ certainly brings the sound back into more recognisable territories, and again here, Mullineaux’s bass is placed centre stage as a moody low-end pulse that drones on through the rigid guitars, sound samples and delicate vocal harmonies.
The briefest interlude gives way to ‘tonight’, an emotionally dense track dealing only in the tenderest guitar and Pendlebury’s vocals, now hushed whispers, enriched in brief moments by delicate string swells. A truly beautiful track.  
The album’s halfway point is marked by ‘motorway’, Goat Girl’s second single teaser. Again here, the outfit is dealing in rich experimentation. Synth motifs dominate the tracks alongside steady propulsive drums, all while vocal harmonies stretch and sway, culminating into a moody and undeniably groovy synth-pop track. This is replaced with dual offering‘take it away’ and ‘pretty faces’, undeniably the sibling tracks of the album. In the former you again see Goat Girl delving into simple sonic beauty, with tender piano resting alongside Pendlebury and Davies’ rich, swelling vocal harmonies. Barely audible guitar and soaring string section leads the track to its close before‘pretty faces’ kicks in (though you wouldn’t have noticed the track change unless you were looking at your phone). In the latter, the string section now swirls in a spiralling happiness, the rich vocal harmonies take to the forefront, before mountainous synth work draws the track to its close. 
The album’s tail end is brought along by ‘perhaps’, another song in Goat Girl’s latest offering bound by a striking duality. The first half is spooky, moody and angst-ridden. Slow, thudding drums, guitars, and synth provide a visceral, palpable tension, like the band are preparing for some curveball transition. The second half is just this; all instrumentation grinds to a halt before mountainous bass synth explodes outwards with driven guitars, and vocal contributions now dark and serious – a stellar offering here. The album closer, ‘wasting’, is a culmination of Goat Girl’s clear sonic message present throughout the entire album. It’s the longest running track at just over six minutes and is undeniably the outfit’s anthem song. It wasn’t designed with the radio mind, rather it was a track purely designed for the album. And it shows itself as the definitive amalgamation of every sonic decision made by the band for this latest offering; the swirling, at times brutal synth work; the glittering harmonies; the at-times understated, at-times rock-solid guitar work; the inspired drum and bass grooves; all here are captured in not only Goat Girl’s most musically dense track I have heard, but speaks more importantly to the group’s uncompromising desire to seek new sonic territories.
It’s art-rock, noise-rock, synth-pop, and some other kind of genre I think only Goat Girl could invent.

Harry Meenagh
Image: Below The Waste Official Album Cover

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