Keeping the mystique. How does one do that in this over-saturated, over-hyped, and overwhelming world of media? Is it just another, albeit a road less well travelled, way of increasing attention, getting your head above the crowded parapet?
"Media saturation is probably very destructive to art," opines author Joyce Johnson, and one-time girlfriend of Jack Kerouac. "New movements get overexposed and exhausted before they have a chance to grow, and they turn to ashes in a short time. Some degree of time and obscurity is often very necessary to artists."
In the short history of rock’n'roll, there was a time that a band could develop over at least two or three albums. Rarely did they strike gold from the very beginning, or fully locate their creative mojo. But, the seeds had been sown, and it was then a matter of careful nurturing. Hundreds, probably thousands, of famous or respected bands and artists would have been dropped if they were forced to operate in the 'get results first, ask questions later' environment of the mainstream music industry these last few years; where rapacious profit-making and extreme competitiveness have clearly dented risk-taking, to the detriment of music as art.
But thankfully, with the major labels becoming less and less important, and with the concurrent development of the DIY and independent sectors, there has been a slow return to the idea of artist development. Just like the 'slow revolution' that has infiltrated all aspects of creative life – from cooking to journalism – there is a maturer, less frenzied approach to artist development. As always, the cream eventually does rise to the top or is at least given a chance to.
Taking the idea of mystique a step further are Sweden's Goat. Indeed, they are possibly the most well-known 'faceless' act to have graced the music scene in recent years. Acts such as Burial, Neutral Milk Hotel, Daft Punk, Swedish heavy metallers Ghost, and the avant garde music collective The Residents are just some of a handful of relatively successful acts who have eschewed their identity and/or publicity altogether. But, have any gone as far as Goat in not only hiding their physical identity but also shrouding their history in one of possible legend and myth?
Who are these masked musicians? Does their home village of Korpilombolo actually exist? Are they really a part of a voodoo tradition? Is their music one that has been been passed down through the generations? Or, are they really just bullshit media manipulators?
Despite their enigmatic, vaguely ludicrous qualities, there is one thing we can be pretty sure of, the music. Goat’s music is by turns intoxicating, tribal, psychedelic and sonically adventurous. With Requiem, their third album, Goat again show off their credentials as internationalist groovers, coming from the unlikely isolated northern Sweden, very close to the border with Finland. "It’s a beautiful and at the same time very grim place," says Lill-Benny of Goat, via email, of Korpilombolo. Whether or not this is true is made fuzzier by the fact that a few years back Goat’s Wikipedia entry misspelled the village name, and there seemed to be no information at all about this place. Unsurprisingly, both omissions have been amended. As it transpired, Korpilombolo was a real place. Also, Lill-Benney is not his/her real name and they don't do interviews any other way it seems. You just have to roll with it. You have to believe, in Goat.