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Gong - Radio Gnome Invisible Vol. 3 - You CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

4.24 | 913 ratings

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4 stars The greatest trilogy ever?

SeanTrane, in his reviews of the three Radio Gnome Invisible albums, calls this the greatest trilogy ever. I can't honestly comment on that, as I've only heard this album out of the three. If the rest are anything at all like this, however, he may well be right. This album can be a lot to swallow the first few times through, as it covers a wide range of styles, and sounds like nothing you've heard before. In fact, a month after I bought this album, I felt like it was a two star album. Now, another month later, I feel like it is be a masterpiece.

As I've said, this album covers a wide range of styles, from some CAN-like moments to some almost pop moments to what i-tunes labeled as "acid punk." Don't let the acid punk bit turn you off, though, because this is one of the most intelligent and creative albums around, and, yes, very much a progressive album. As far as concept goes, this album is a continuation of the story of Planet Gong, and "peace, love, and fun" (thanks SeanTrane), though I'd guess from the title and some of the lyrics that there's some Planet Gong religion mixed in. The album shines, however, when it is instrumental.

The album opens with three shorter tracks, the first two silly, and the third a tone-setter. Thoughts for Naught features some nice flute work and some awfully deep male vocals and whispery female vocals that create a dark but whimsy atmosphere. This is probably the weakest song on the album, but it's not without its merits. Next up is a P.h.p.'s Advice (p.h.p. = pot head pixie, which are the main character's on the Planet Gong). This is a very poppy song with some incredibly silly lyrics and vocals to match, and featuring some great percussion work that really makes this worthwhile. Up next is Magick Mother Invocation, which starts leading us into the meat of the album. It features some spacey music that conjures up dark images and cursed pyramids, and on top of all this is some deep chanting that will remind you of CAN's Aumgn.

After this six or so minute introduction consisting of three different songs, the album really starts. Master Builder flows right out of Magick Mother Invocation, and some chanting comes in, presumably in a made up language. Spacey sound effects and some engaging drumming really start to take you away to a new place where no other music I've heard will take you. This track builds in intensity, and really grabs me and sucks me into the collage of atmospheres and textures that come together to form a cohesive image. This song goes along at almost breakneck speed, but with more intelligence than most music that goes that fast. This is what i-tunes determined was acid punk, and I must say, if it really is, acid punk is some of the greatest music around. The saxophone, or whatever instrument it is (when you listen to the song, you'll know what I'm talking about), is quite crazy. Some lyrics reminiscent of Gentle Giant's Knots take the show for a while, with some minimalistic music, but soon the lyrics morph into more gibberish chanting and the song returns to old form but with new textures, new images being added to the collage I discussed earlier. The song comes to an end with some nice vocals, asking the master builder how to make a temple. This is a masterpiece of a song, perhaps my favorite on the album, and one of the few where the vocal sections compete with the instrumental sections.

Master Builder does have some competition for best on the album, however, especially in A Sprinkling of Clouds. It opens with some repetitive textures that simply sound really good and will impress themselves on you. The rest of the music starts building in the background to excellent effect, and this song is the kind that will just wash over in a manner similar to Rick Wakeman's organ in the I Get Up, I Get Down section of Close to the Edge. However, here, this is sustained for almost ten minutes, and every minute of it perfect, while Wakeman's work only lasts for about thirty seconds or so. Just to clear it up, the two sections don't sound alike, they just have a similar effect (and it's a good one that is done better here). Around 4:15 into the song, the drumming builds and the rest of the song really takes off. The intensity is excellent, and this is a song that you don't listen to. This is a song you experience. You put it on and it pervades every essence of your being in a way that is indescribable in mere words. I cannot do it justice in this review, I will just say that this may well be better than Master Builder, but both are incredible songs that you cannot live without (at least not after you've heard them).

This ended what was side one on the LP version of the album, and now it's time for the equally strong side two. Like side one, this opens with some silliness before the true journey begins. Perfect Mystery opens with some quite catchy music, followed by the witty lyrics ("it's a perfect mystery, how becomes a tree a tree"). This song goes all over the place, with the "cops at the door, no cops at the door" section, followed by an odd instrumental bits and some even odder female vocals. I promise this song is better than I'm making it sound. It's hard to stomach, but when it picks up at the end, it really gets good, and it stands as the best of the 4 under 3 minute tracks on the album.

It's with the Isle of Everywhere that side two really stars, however. This song opens with some psychedelic female vocals mixed with some music that is building wonderfully. About 1:15 into the song, the drumming goes on a trip, and the rest of the music starts following, with excellent results. The Isle of Everywhere is excellent, almost "groovy," but not in the way that much non-prog is, which, for me at the very least, would be a real turn-off. Rather, this is groovy in that the music gives you vibes that make you want to move to it, but without sacrificing any of its intelligence or creativity. The saxophones here is quite wonderful over the repetitive texture (repetitive here is a good, mood-setting thing). The song continues to find new ways to enthrall you, finally climaxing in the last three minutes. I must say, the ending of this song is perfect, a climax equal to those of Genesis' The Musical Box and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This song builds around the main theme perfectly, always doing something new, something inventive, that never leaves you bored or wanting, not even for an instant.

You Never Blow Your Trip Forever starts with some thrumming bass and psychedelic sound effects, building up into some almost funk music with some crazy vocals that simply amazing. Around 1:15 into the song, these vocals change to a rather funny dialogue set to the music, ending with the two speakers missing the bus. The song then gets softer, with some nice vocals asking Zero the Hero if he remembers why he came to everywhere. The music builds perfectly behind this, again in a way that is indescribable solely using words. The funk of the beginning is gone, and around 3:30 into the song, it explodes into some music in God knows what style, probably one Gong invented. The vocals here are some of the best on the album, almost rap, but more intelligent than any straight rap, both in lyrics and singing style. I BEG YOU, with all my heart, to not make any negative associations with my connection to rap, pretend I never said it if you must, because this is an amazing song that transcends the boundaries of any style, and one part happens to sound similar to but much better than a style of modern music that most of you probably dislike. So please, please, please, don't discount the album on account of that one sentence. Anyway, back to the song, it gets pretty crazy in the sixth and seventh minutes, but nothing a progster can't handle. It then features some great lyrics, "well there goes Zero the hero, turning all around the wheels of births and deaths, meanwhile the octave doctors and the pilot pixies and all the other characters of planet Gong have to leave you know with this last little song." What a great excuse for the song to change, into a section with some spacey music and repetitive vocals that somehow don't irritate me. Then, with about 1:45 left, the music switches to the ending theme that fades out to end this marvelous album.

There are several types of prog styles, it seems to me. There are the bands, like Genesis or Yes, who introduce a lot of different themes in their songs, never staying the same for longer than they can help. There is the prog antithesis of this, in which bands (like Le Orme and Solaris) take one theme and see how many new and creative ways they can express it. And then there are bands that take one theme and build around it (technically, there is a fourth style of prog music, which is solely CAN style, where CAN does whatever they want). Based solely on this album, I can easily say that Gong were masters at this last technique (not the CAN one), as seen in Isle of Everywhere and A Sprinkling of Clouds especially. Every song on this album has its merits, interspersing wit with some of the most serious and best music around. I'd love to give this album the full five star rating, but I've given out too many recently, and already have to edit several of them down to four stars. So, for now, 4.5 stars, and maybe someday soon, it'll make the final impression on me that it's a masterpiece. I urge to treat this review as if it were a masterpiece, and rush to buy this album, probably the best Canterbury album I've heard. But, that said, it's hard to define this album as Canterbury. It transcends all the boundaries of genre, all the boundaries of any genre, for that matter, and it is an album you simply MUST own. Well, with that, I'm done recommending this album, and I'll have to let the album's high regard stand on it's own to convince you that this is an essential album. 5 stars for this effort.

Humph. Acid punk indeed. The best of Canterbury is a better label in my eyes.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |


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