The Go! Team – Semicircle

There’s something uplifting about hearing the news The Go! Team are back in action. In a musical age where yes, there’s a lot of fantastic and innovative music to get your teeth into, not a great deal of it is much fun. Not fun in the upbeat, cultural mash-up style of this Brighton band. A band who, in the words of founder and musical director Ian Parton, was built upon his desire to mix up all his favourites, without having much of an idea as to where it may end up. Noisy Sonic Youth guitars, double Dutch chants, Charlie Brown piano and car chase horn music were some of those unlikely building blocks. Oh, and female vocals. He’s never had anything else except for one appearance by Chuck D. In his words: “Just purely personal taste really, everything from loving Phil Spector, Roxanne Shante, Riot Grrrl… there’s something about the curviness of the melodies, I can’t even put my finger on it. Yeah… love the cute versus nasty dynamic.”

At the beginning The Go! Team’s music was mostly the work of Parton, made in his home studio, and with plenty of crunchy distortion applied to a purposeful clashing of different styles and cultures – made up of samples plus guitars and drums – and a significant degree of musical aggression allied to gentler, wispier moments that dreamily recalled a non-existent 60s/70s idyll. An idyll personified by fiction. The fiction of a TV theme tune, a film, or soundtrack music for animation. His last album, The Scene Between, was Ian’s work with the help of various vocalists. This time Semicircle is more of a band effort, made up of Simone Odaranile (drums), Angela ‘Maki’ Won-Yin Mak (guitar, vocals), plus original members Sam Dook and Ninja, both of whom appeared on the debut Thunder, Lightning, Strike album of 2004. That initial idea of borrowing and stealing from a variety of sources, and mashing it up is alive and well in 2018. Semicircle was created around “The idea of a school marching band gone rogue, chucking away their sheet music to blast out Northern soul stompers or Japanese indie-pop swooners or old-school hip-hop jams.” Indeed, in order to help replicate (and then mutilate/splice) the marching band sound he was looking for, Parton ventured to Detroit where he hooked up with The Detroit Youth Choir, whose members inhabited that crucial in-between point post-childhood, but pre-adulthood. Their chanting is all over the lead track ‘Mayday’, a joyous morse code Northern soul-nspired belter. As it is over album closer ‘Getting Back Up.’

In between, The Go! Team sound like themselves and no other. Via ‘Chain Link Fence’ in particular where a warped carnival-esque musicality fuses with sunshiney horn passages and big distorted drums that are both defining aspects of the band, and which rarely fail to lift. It also features an unknown, and unproven singer Parton found via a Detroit high school.

It’s there via the New Orleans brass-inspired title track; the big and meaty ‘Hey!’ that features previous collaborator Julie Margat, AKA Lispector, providing a French spoken interlude; The brilliantly melodic, warped sitar-meets-the-big-smashing-beat-driven-Motown vibe of ‘The Answer’s No – Now What’s the Question?’, which also features an unknown in the shape of Texan Darned Weaver. There’s also Maki on ‘If There Is One Thing You Should Know’, alongside sunny side up steel drums and recorders, whilst Ninja takes the lead on the old school sample-heavy Public Enemy hip-hop of ‘She’s Got Guns’. There’s also Utrecht indie-rocker Annelotte de Graaf, AKA Amber Arcades, an unexpected choice of vocalist for ‘Plans Are Like A Dream u Organise’, but whose tones are easily assimilated into The Go! Team sound.

There really is no negativity or outright cynicism in the world of The Go! Team and Ian Parton. It never shows in the music, an almost invariably rose-tinted, audio equivalent of Super 8, with lashings of retro psychedelia, hip-hop and the like, all mashed up into a unique dish that retains – very importantly – melody and songcraft. Moreover, its simple but sparkling spirituality is verging on the religious. It’s all things bright and beautiful.

Jeff Hemmings