Goat Girl – Below The Waste

A disparate, hugely creative return...

Goat Girl have never sought to write the same song twice. Live, the band’s performances are like peering down at a petri dish – they throw ideas out, and see what happens. A sprawling 16-track endeavour, new album ‘Below The Waste’ is the closest they’ve come to replicate this, a meandering, mazy, often moving song cycle that veers from folk-hewn field recordings to deconstructed indie rock. Fascinating, if sometimes confusing, it’s a record that stands as testimony to the unbridled creativity that seems to fuel the band.

Self-produced alongside John Spud Murphy, ‘Below The Waste’ is Goat Girl’s first as a three-piece, with Ellie Rose Davies having departed. Switching up their roles and methodologies once more, this lends itself to the record’s evolutionary stance – it’s the sound of a band unsheathing themselves from the past, and becoming something new, something different.

Nowhere near as defined as 2021’s excellent ‘On All Fours’, the record instead thrives on its broad cavalcade of ideas. Opening ‘reprise’ is one of several instrumental snippets placed throughout the record, aiding the overall structure – like artsy audio tent pegs, essentially, keeping a roof over your head.

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‘ride around’ is an immediate highlight, it’s stop-start structure reminiscent of Wire, while having a charm of its own. ‘worlds fell out’ is hugely personal, with singer/guitarist Lottie Pendlebury reflecting on watching drummer Rosy Jones’ experiences with addiction.

The bare-bones production aids the songwriting; throughout, it’s fascinating to see the machinery protrude from underneath the songs. The loping bass on ‘play it down’ is worthy of a Breeders record, while the wonderful ‘where’s ur <3’ shows a different, rather more tender side to the band than we’re used to.

The soothing ‘pretty faces’ approaches the bucolic, while acoustic snippet ‘prelude’ has the eerie appeal of a field recording. Indeed, there’s a few folk adjacent aspects on the record, with ‘sleep talk’ fuelled by those wheezy accordion sounds; Spud’s credits do, after all, include Mercury nominated Rough Trade labelmates Lankum.

To call this a folk record, though, diminishes its breadth – the audio paranoia of ‘perhaps’, for example, is worthy of the nightmares spawned by Slint’s ‘Spiderland’. By final track ‘wasting’ the band have taken you on a long, winding journey – not all of it sticks, but the best material here ranks alongside Goat Girl’s finest work.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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