SAMUEL GOFF “Transmissions” (Orb Tapes)

Among the Rocks and Roots released one of my favorite 2019 surprises, Raga, which I wrote about immediately after hearing it (it came in the mail; I popped it in within five minutes, not knowing what to expect; I was blown away). It remains a go-to tape when I want a faceful of blistering weirdness – on that front it fully delivers. Samuel Goff comprises half of Among the Rocks and Roots (he’s also a founding member of RAIC), and here he steps out on his own with Transmissions, his first-ever solo release. How does it stack up against the utter onslaught of Raga? Well, it’s still an unmistakable assault on the senses; and while it may not be as traditionally “heavy,” with pummeled instruments and breakneck pacing, it absolutely delivers on the madness and intensity of Goff’s other project.

What’s most noticeable about Transmissions is the variety it displays from track to track, and this makes sense given the fact that it contains field recordings collected over the course of a year; these are sourced from Goff’s travels to Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, Bolivia, while the rest was recorded at the University of Richmond in Virginia. While “Pikeville” mixes free jazz and backporch Kentucky folk, “Transmissions, Part One” blends together scrambled, er, transmissions until they resolve into a cauldron of boiling static. These things juxtaposed against each other serve to heighten their individual characteristics – and this is even before we get to the rhythmic stuff! That’s right, both “Snakebite” and “Cochabamba” hit you with more traditional rhythms, with the field recordings of “Cochabamba” doing some incredible heavy lifting as they inject the thirteen-minute track with surprise movement. (Not to mention the choir – really nice touch.)

At this point you’re only halfway through, and the second side of Transmissions bears out the contrast between noise and rhythm and local sounds/music as sound art in infinitely intriguing ways. Goff transcends genre with ease, swirling everything together until each element fits perfectly in its own place, no matter how much it contrasts with something else. This is the logical next step following Raga, a half-turn to the interior workings of how one participant processes the world around him.