Published Jun 27, 2018It took about two years and three mixtapes for Toronto-based crew John Orpheus to arrive at Goatlife, and the journey has been as important as the destination.
John Orpheus is both the individual and the collective: Trinidadian-born frontman/poet John Orpheus, aka J.O., DJ/percussionist Sarah Jane Riegler and vocalist/dancer Chaenel Mattis offer up a marinated mix of Afropop, "jiggy AF" rap, soca and dancehall. In addition to the high-energy mode of the project, there is a sense of urgency: John Orpheus dropped three mixtapes in 2017, each with their own take on pan-African musicality — the hip-hop fuelled Goldchain Hennessey, the jump-up groove that was Bacchanal, and the West African-mined Black Star Rising.
The Mike Schlosser-produced Goatlife takes things a level higher, further fusing these sounds into something that's greater — and funkier— than the sum of its parts. Title track "Goatlife" carries an anthemic sound, its explorative rhythms emboldened by a hard rock-star edge. John Orpheus's vocals are uniquely malleable, adeptly adapting the sonic sounds laid down by percussionist/drummer Sarah and backup vocals by Mattis.
"Parachute" brings the bacchanal, riding hard on a Trinidadian soca vibe, the clear mixtape standout that's targeted towards summer party sensibilities. "Come Fresh" and "Lady Boss" lean in on a stuttery, bounceable dancehall grooves — with "Come Fresh" perhaps the less prominent of the two. "Brwn Girl" offers up a pop-minded harmony and mainstream dancehall and hip-hop feel, while "C Ur Son" sounds like an early Wyclef Jean solo cut.
Goatlife serves as both "summer of 2018" statement and promise for an intriguing full-length effort that's undoubtedly ahead. (Independent)