Monday, October 26, 2009

Joe Goddard 'Harvest Festival' - debut artist album for Greco-Roman imprint

Joe Goddard
'Harvest Festival'
Released November

“…and party, and bullshit, and party, and bullshit, and party, and bullshit…”

Joe Goddard is no stranger to clubs. As a member of Hot Chip he’s played more than his fair share, as well as remixing, and being remixed by, the great and the good. As a DJ he’s been around the world on top of masterminding Bugged Out and DJ Kicks comps. And as a founding member of the Greco-Roman collective he’s probably seen things, like Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner, you people wouldn’t believe. No wonder the man’s first solo album sounds the way it does.

Harvest Festival is a celebration of electronic music, pure and simple, in which Goddard brings the objects of his passion lovingly into the 21st century. “I wanted to do things that would feel a little out of place on a Hot Chip album,” he explains, “like having long instrumental passages and loops. I love crafting short songs with Alexis [Taylor] but I wanted to have a go at other forms of electronic music.”

Growing up in London, Goddard found himself at the heart of club culture, and this has undeniably rubbed off on him. “I suppose the record is my comment on dance music here as I have experienced it over the years,” he confesses. “It has traces of all the periods I have gone through clubbing, from drum ‘n’ bass to house, garage, techno, dubstep. There is a polyrhythmic, bouncing and Jamaican element to most London music that comes from jungle and rave that you do not find so much in places like Berlin or New York. I love those elements and often try to find places for them. All of these things feature in Greco-Roman nights as well.”

The Greco-Roman nights of which he speaks are run by a collective of musicians, artists and jilted music-lovers that include Goddard himself. The littlest hobo of the international clubbing circuit, together they have thrown quasi-legal parties in off-kilter venues such as boats, warehouses, railway arches and Spanish restaurants in London, Moscow, New York, Austin, Sydney, Melbourne and their second home of Berlin, as well as troubling festivals such as Bestival, Glastonbury, Bloc, Field Day and the Big Chill under the name Greco-Roman Soundsystem. Their extravaganzas have offered Goddard an invaluable opportunity to study what makes a party work, allowing him to justify their beloved Greco-Roman wrestling and bacchanalian orgies by making them as mind-broadening as they are mind-bending. They have also released singles from Buraka Som Sistema, David E Sugar, Grovesnor, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Drums of Death, while Harvest Festival is a worthy title holder for their first full length release.

“I learn about the different phases that nights go through,” he admits, “and watch the way the crowd responds to different environments, different tunes and the prevailing mood of the night. I learn about what people respond to musically whilst dancing, and the conventions that dance music needs and uses to unite people.” But Greco-Roman has had an even greater influence on his debut. “I wanted to avoid the crushing seriousness that a lot of dance producers seem to feel is essential to making music,” he continues. “So with this music, as well as with Hot Chip, there are moments of contemplation and then playful bits that hopefully will be fun for people to dance to.”

Given that the record is as much a record about dance music as it is a dance music record, Goddard has given it an arc similar to that of an evening out. It opens with ‘Apple Bobbing’, whose playful, woozy sound recalls Aphex Twin’s early ambient work, then works up towards ‘Pear-Shaped’, which “was inspired by Theo Parrish’s music, that insistent, jerky bounce that lots of good Detroit music has that doesn’t let up”. ‘Strawberry Jam’ and the mock-anthemic ‘Go Bananas’ both reveal Goddard’s huge love of UK Garage and pick up the pace even further before ‘Half-Time Oranges’ sees him an unlikely marriage between Brian Eno and J. Dilla. ‘Lemon & Lime (Home Time)’ meanwhile represents a turning point, its lush melancholy – and one of only two vocals on the album – addressing “the moment that the sun comes up and people start to think about getting home.” ‘Sour Grapes’ then continues the Detroit theme before the night winds down with nods to LTJ Bukem and, on ‘Coconut Shy’, a second tip of the hat to Brian Eno.

Harvest Festival is an album that raves about the past while striding imaginatively into the future. But those titles? “Collecting together these songs, some of which are very old, felt to me a bit like when your Mum gave you an old tin of peaches to take into church at Harvest Festival. And when making instrumental dance music, titles are often really meaningless anyway. They’re not exactly what’s on people’s minds when they’re dancing, and that’s what this record is for.” Still, it seems like his work has come to fruition. Ouch. Let that be a lesson.

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