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Gong - Gazeuse! CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.93 | 422 ratings

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4 stars SxE Gong - the Miracle Hair Restorer

My sister once dated a Gnome Radio ham and when the relationship ended in tears (hers) she won custody of four Gong albums and bequeathed same to her little brother (moi) Forever hence, the original owner of said vinyl was referred to simply as 'the hairy stranger to soap' by Lemming soeur. To date I have never been able to make it through any of the Radio Gnome trilogy but was amazed to discover that this album is as coherent and disciplined as the former are rambling and slapdash. There is not a single pixie, orgone accumulator, teapot or paean to the futility of bathing anywhere on Gazeuse, and I really should recast the world's most grievously irritating longhair commune band in a whole new light. This is straight up jazz rock fusion, with themes, improvisations and recapitulations that Mahavishnu, Return to Forever and Weather Report would kill for. After a chemically constructed 'wall of force' decreed that Daevid Allen quit the original lineup they were still two albums short of fulfilling a contract with Virgin Records. Pierre Moerlen appears to have commandeered a becalmed vessel at this point, and whether he is considered a control freak or not, we should be thankful that someone could tell crew from ballast, as shorn of Allen's wacky zaniness (a.k.a.stoned smug hippies dicking about) or Hillage's gaudy psychedelia laced guitar this is a very different fusion beastie indeed.

Straight Edge Gong anyone?

Expresso - I had to do a double take here as this can't be the same band that named a track I am Your Pussy can it? Very carefully structured and paced right down to the last detail with sparing use of staccato unison sections and bolstered by the molten steel of Holdsworth's legato guitar. The textural detail provided by his brother's subtle vibes behind Moerlen Snr's intricate and groovin' kit plus the sparing sax interjections via Didier Malherbe are a joy. Even that 70's studio conceit of phasing the drum fills doesn't irritate here such is the strength of the material and playing throughout. Lovely double time contradiction towards the end set up by the chromatic percussion getting busier over the unwavering pulse of the underlying groove. I could swear my hair has grown since this track started ...

Night Illusion - Must be the first time I have heard Holdsworth play conventional power chords as illustrated by the intro. Another very robust composition with a main theme that lingers long in the noggin afterwards. If nothing else this album has convinced me that Pierre Moerlen is one of the best drummers I have ever heard and once again the dynamic contrasts afforded by the wealth of chromatic percussion deployed gives the track a depth of detail that rewards repeated listens. Zappa had a lifelong mallet fetish but he seldom put them to such effective use as Gong do on Gazeuse.

Percolations Parts 1 & 2 - The first part confounds my habitual prejudice about ambient style atmospherics i.e. this is assuredly not just any old flotsam drowned in a big reverb. Gorgeous swathes of composed chordal washes provide a backdrop whose source appears to be that of a pedal steel guitar put through a variety of chorused and/or overdubbed harmonies. (Whatever, it is just industrial strength sumptuous y'all) The second part racks up the tempo considerably and steals a march on much of the gamelan guitar work of the Crims that was to follow circa 1981 but here stated on vibraphone, mallets, marimba and glockenspiel. Take care to notice the compelling use of timpani on Percolations as unlike many rock bands, Gong resist the temptation to go bombastic '1812 meltdown' when armed with the orchestral critters. I am probably one of the few non-drummers who actually enjoys many drum solos and the one here provided by the multi talented Moerlen is as good an example of a carefully composed and 'musical' excursion I have encountered. Right up on a par with Billy Cobham and Tony Williams (praise indeed) Is that a light covering of fuzz I can now feel on my bald patch?

Shadows of - Perhaps the best track on the album. Almost a perfect example of what jazz rock could be (but seldom is) The main theme is tear wellingly beautiful and the subsequent sections that follow, although all clearly discernible, serve to add to the whole and flow seamlessly into each other as the piece develops. Holdsworth's solo is a veritable 'stag night at the Whammy bar' and is just another example of the sort of light and shade and dynamic contrast that appears to have left his work as the years went by. Is this a fringe I see before me?....

Esnuria - Crunchy riffing from Holdsworth and a rhythmic feel not a million miles away from Bill Bruford's Earthworks. Lovely ostinato from Malherbe mixed tantalising low in the mix as if to tease us into reaching for the 'repeat' button. Francis Mose contributes some plaintive singing bass on this number and like everything at the bottom end on Gazeuse, plays just enough and no more to get the job done. This discipline may be a product of his stint in early Magma?

Mireille - Rather roomy little tail-ender. Not completely redundant as it does contain some plaintive acoustic from Holdsworth over some dislocated and dreamy harmonic accompaniment via Mose's ethereal Rhodes and neurotic acoustic piano. Although hardly a 'sea parter' it's the only track that features keyboards.

Gong's output appears to be split abruptly between the communal fruits of psychedelic breakfast cereal and the latter fusion material. Whatever side of the fence your preferences might lie, I am convinced that lengthy exposure to this band might actually promote hair restoration in we balding and ageing proggers. So wedge that retreating mullet between the speakers and watch that thick glossy pate miraculously regenerate itself.

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |


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