The Go! Team – Semicircle

The Go! Team’s career arc should be required reading for any classroom study of the 21st century music business. The story begins with Ian Parton’s Brighton, England science project, one that yielded 2004’s landmark Thunder, Lightning, Strike, which remains the gold standard for melding cut-and-paste culture with high energy indie rock (M83 fans, you know where to find me). You’d have a hard time convincing me that Kayne wasn’t inspired by Parton’s work when creating his jock jam staple “Power.”

From there things get complicated. Thunder was saturated with enough uncleared samples to render it unreleasable in the US. A more litigation-friendly – and only slightly less thrilling – version eventually arrived stateside, at which point Parton recast The Go! Team as a band for touring purposes. Parton’s clearly a studio rat at heart – he leveraged his ascendant stature to reel in vocalists as diverse as Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino for subsequent releases, which dialed down the Sonic Youth guitar headrush to reveal a more twee angle. The quality remained high but with minimal touring, a leisurely release schedule and without the adrenaline rush of the debut The Go! Team’s star gradually faded.

For Semicircle The Go! Team are back to presenting as a band – although a quick scan of the credits reveals it’s still essentially Parton and a cast of collaborators. Original rapper Ninja returns to the fold – her two tracks are winning shots of upbeat mid ’80s hip-hop in the MC Lyte vein. One of these is the effervescent “She’s Got Guns,” which apparently doesn’t ride a sample of the Jackson 5’s “The Love You Save.” Angela Won Yin Mak also returns to anchor the lighter tracks, a role also ably handled by a pair of new female vocalists from the EU underground. To my recollection Chuck D remains the only male voice to have ever graced a Go! Team track.

Album number five also features Parton’s newest recruits, the Detroit Youth Choir. They’re Semicircle’s most prominent set of voices, contributing the band’s trademark playground sass and, on closer “Getting Back Up,” a hint of gospel. But the real X-factor seems to be Parton’s work with Stuart Bogie of Brooklyn’s long running horn-heavy outfit Antibalas. Though horns are hardly new to The Go! Team palette, the pair’s title track co-write blends them organically and delightfully with the Youth Choir’s voices.

Semicircle is the Go! Team’s sunniest record to date, with no real surprises but enough subtle twists to keep things fresh. It’s oddly sequenced, with some of the gems hidden in its back end. Atlanta fans won’t get to find out how these creations translate to a live stage, as sadly The Go! Team’s tour stops short of the Southeast.

The Go! Team
[Memphis Industries]