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Gong - Shamal CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.82 | 332 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars With Daevid kindly invited to step out, or his gracious bow-out over with, GonG suddenly realized that they were indeed Gong, but apparently the madness was missing, especially so that Steve Hillage, his wife and Tim Blake, the You trio, were also gone. So what's left on GonG??? Outside Didier Bloomdido Malherbe, and to a lesser extent Pierre Moerlen and Mike Howlett, we've got a brand new group compared to RGI's second tome. And musically it shows mega tons, as the unit is developing a sold jazz-rock with moods ranging from atmospheric to mad to reflective, ethnic, furious etc. On keyboards appear Patrick Lemoine from Ribeiro's Alpes, while Bauer's many tuned percussions give another twist to the new line-up. Fantastic desert photo gracing the gatefold.

Out of the six tracks, three are sung, somewhat as capable as Howlett was able to, but obviously vocals and conceptual lyrics are no concern of the new band. Their jazz-rock is highly haunting, with a tad of orientalism thrown in, and Gong can be seen as a full blown Canterbury-an group, sounding like Hatfield, National Health and a few more including Hillage, even if THE big semi-absent here. Opening on Wingful Of Eyes, where the Hillages make a quick come back, Shamal makes an awesome reassurance to fans that if Daevid is gone, Gong remains a first class group although in a very different field of excellence. While WOE and its follow-up Chandra are both sung funky jazz-rock, they are not necessarily representative of the rest of the album. A Bambooji shows us, where Extreme Oriental influence of Bloomdido lead us in a very complex tune, where Hillage finds his way through for a short but powerful solo.

The flipside returns to a solid jazz-rock where Howlett's bass plays up Moerlen's awesome drums and Bauer's tuned percussion instruments in a 100 MPH groove, while Malherbe soars with his sax, but gets a discreet help from guest (appearing on 4 of 6 tracks) violinist Pinchevski, but soon digress in an insanely complex prog tirade with crazy time sigs, and then grotesque carnival music, before reverting to the insane time sigs. Cat In Clarck's Shoes is a real tour-de-force, but one of many highlights of Shamal. Mandrake shows a slower pace and a more reflective where Didier's flute and Mireille's xylo glide on their cloud over a smooth lava rhythm section. The closing title track is yet another superb track, although the sax and violin solos (interrupted by chorus lines) are a tiny bit predictable.

Difficult to rate such an album in comparison to Gong's previous oeuvres, but Shamal is easily Gong's best album under the Moerlen- era (named as such because he will be the only constant member in the next few albums, before renaming the group to his name in order to accommodate older members' access to the name), with every new album coming after, although remaining solidly virtuoso and excellently executed, but also every time a bit less inspired. But this one is a must for the Moerlen-era.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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