Earlier this year, Sam Goldberg and Emerald’s John Elliot joined forces as Mist and released House, an album that raised the analogue electronic bar pretty high. At this point, most drone fans are familiar with Elliott’s skills; Goldberg, on the other hand, is probably lesser known. If you take the time to dip into his solo backlog – much of which has been released via cassette on his own Pizza Night label – you might find an artist who hits all the right nerves.
The tone wrangling and resplendent synthesizer arpeggiations common to a lot of Goldberg’s work is practically non-existent on Having Had Forgot, his latest effort for Arbor Records. Goldberg sheds some of his bedroom-droner status and emerges here more as an orchestrator, opting to swap esoteric electronic gear for drums, guitars, a clarinet, double bass and saxophone. In order to realize his vision, Goldberg decided to work with a rotating ensemble of Midwestern musicians (Tiger Hatchery’s Ben Billington, Mike Forbes, Andrew Young, J. Guy Laughlin, Ben Osbourne and Jeff Host) to piece the album’s eight tracks together.
The orchestration is not without its holes. More then half of the songs on Having Had Forgot feel like stunted knock-offs of Dirty Three songs, the slow building instrumental movements fading out before amounting to anything of substance. The opening two tracks, “Never Again and Forever” and “Floorless,” are equally overly simplistic in their attempt at tranquility via cyclical acoustic guitar melodies. “Races,” which we’ll call the album’s centerpiece, is also its worst, featuring nearly six dissonant minutes of sax, skittery percussion and guitar tremolo. If Goldberg is hinting at some intelligible construct behind this particular track, he should have been more obvious.
On the contrary, the cuts that stay true to Goldberg’s signature style make up the album’s finer moments. The cyclical patterns of the opening tracks are re-envisioned through the use of a synthesizer on “Atom,” its repeating phrase shifting through various states of clarity while a kick drum pulsates beneath. “Fish Swallow” stands out as well -- but it’s over in a blink, a recurring flaw with a lot of these songs.
Looking beyond the missteps, Having Had Forgot does show promise. Goldberg took risks in creating something that is likely intrinsic to his growth as a musician, meaning we can expect to see more stellar work from him in the future, now that the glorified ensemble record is out of his system.