Review: The Go! Team – SEMICIRCLE

Parting group members and a radical change in style might suggest a band’s disenchantment with musical performance; a languishing devotion to the often demanding nature of art. But through the loss of former band members – the governing theme of previous album The Scene Between – and a fruitful exploration of the American Midwest, band leader Ian Parton has garnered a wealth of knowledge and experience and team members to produce the most enthralling release of 2018.

With the accompaniment of long time players Simone Odaranile, Angela Won-Yin Mak (aka ‘Maki’) and Ninja (voted as 15th coolest person in the UK by NME) – all of whom deliver astounding performances on a plethora of instruments – Parton creates an epic spectacle composed of big band tropes, Bollywood soundtrack features, hip hop and a punky splash of garage rock.

Other artists featured inject a edginess pungent enough to rival the genre-blending wonders comprising the original Go! Team brigade. Yet, thanks to Parton’s music production skills, no artist shines nor overpowers the other: listeners are instead presented with a panoply of triumphant collaborations. Alongside these visiting artists, the team prove its capacity for genre and style collation – the ethos resting at its heart – whilst pursuing a new project: replicating the sound of the antiquated marching band for a modern audience.

Whilst having professed to a deep fascination with this communal form of musical performance in anticipation of SEMICIRCLE, Parton has remained firmly loyal to the myriad genres predominating former album releases. He and his comrades – old and new – thread all twelve tracks with a discernible, sincere and unifying sense of joy. Forget the screeching pop and tacky riffs of girl and boy bands: here is some seriously positive music.

“May Day” initiates the adventure with garage symbol thrashes, futuristic beats, an infectious Bollywood sample, fiery trumpets and – of course – bursts of shouted joy. The sequence blasts open with a blazing demonstration of the band’s ability to unify supposedly opposing genres and styles into a delicious auditory concoction.

Xylophones, glockenspiels and sousaphones – three of the most definitive emblems of the marching band – and pleasing vocals comprise “Chain Link Fence”, an uplifting repudiation of the press-regurgitated gloom that shrouds the modern individual. This layering of genres builds into a thoroughly satisfying climax of classic brass playing, rock-esque drumming and Bollywood soundtrack loops, rendering the track one of the evocative in the sequence.

“All the Way Live” fortifies the overarching theme of social cohesion with an initial whoosh of electro, stirring brass instrumentation and the return of Ninja’s sugary, yet captivating bars. The team form a sonorous spectacle of beauty; a big brass, pop-esque and, at points, rocky display foreshadowed by the dominance of trumpets, percussion and sousaphone in predecessor “Semicircle”.

Instrumental piece “Chico’s Radical Decade” introduces a mythical element to the sequence through woodwind –created by Ninja on recorder – and intermittent trumpet chords, and invites its listeners into a pleasant realm of escapism.

Creating a similar effect is the ethereal image produced by xylophone chords claims precedence from beginning until end in penultimate track “Plans Are Like A Dream U Organise”. Agreeable snippets from Bollywood soundtrack in the piece are illuminated by exquisite xylophone chords, illustrating its narrative of fantasy. Conversely, one-lined piece “Hey!” summons the marching band spirit back into the sequence through its employment of more vibrant Bollywood samples, energetic vocals and the reintroduction of brass instrumentation.

Sincere vocals convey sharp societal observations amidst a splendid array of drums, percussion and appealing guitar chords in “The Answer’s No, Now What’s The Question?” – delivering the 90s indie rock girl power sound promised by its title. A piece so astutely feminist in its dominance of female vocals, it deserves to stand from the rest of the sequence.

“If There’s One Thing You Should Know”, similarly, digresses slightly from the brassy governance of its preceding tracks through its steel drum backbone, which supports the reappearance of a joyful vocal tone. Following on from the powerful ballad of “The Answer’s No”, Parton and the team are quick to reinforce the motif of attainable enjoyment, of finding happiness where ever one can; a refusal to, as Parton aptly describes let ‘the fuckers get you down!’

Short, sharp and ultimately effective piece ‘Tangerine / Satsuma / Clementine” and dance-fueller “She’s Got Guns”, with its memorable Bollywood riffs and Ninja’s creative bars, showcases what makes The Go! Team so unique: its ability to create lyrical chaos. Concluding this infectious variety with one last final burst of sunshine, “Getting Back Up” provides a triumph of trumpets, a harmonised collection of vocals and a consistency of such animated drumming, it compels the body to dance.

After a break of three years, The Go! Team demonstrate its ability to develop its style whilst retaining the eclectic charm that makes its project so inventive and refreshing.

Beth Andralojc

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