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Gong - The Universe Also Collapses CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.66 | 57 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Progressive rock listeners will mostly like Gong because of the charismatic psychedelic space rock albums of the Radio Gnome Trilogy. Since enigmatic frontman Daevid Allen and 'space whisperer' Gilli Smith have both passed away the Gong tradition has been continued by a group of musicians which has been present since 2014's 'I See You' album - which was the last album on which Allen and Smith performed. Without any members of the seventies Gong the legitimacy of this line-up is debatable, but I would argue that this band deserves to be continued - especially with an album like 'The Universe Also Collapses'.

Present are the psychedelic and slightly dopey vocals with their jazzy timing, the space rock soundscapes, the jazz rock elements, a lost-in-time sixties refrain, the strong rhythmical section and above all that typical Gong sympathetic vibe. Add some very strong wind-sections by Ian East (that add a layer of VdGG intensity!) and some keyboard sounds that remind me a bit of CAN's 'Future Days' album - and you might get a picture of what to expect. The totality of it comes across as a group effort, rather than focusing on individual talents - which are evidently present. Of course, there's no replacing Deavid Allen's personality, but the vocals on this album are well done. I didn't like them at first, but somehow one moment later I 'found out' how much they are a charming tribute to Gong's founder. The production of the album is also very well done; a bit retro, yet modern enough to feel relevant in today's progressive rock landscape. Definitely better sounding - than say - 90% of the best albums of 2019.

I consider all songs (except the last) to be equally satisfying. 'Forever Reoccurring' is a twenty minute multi-part track that throws around all typical Gong elements and has a nice listenable pace to it. This song has the most Canterbury-like feel to it as well. Somehow this track has this conclusive or 'after though' feel about it, as if would perfectly fit right after the 'You' album. 'My Sawtooth Wake' is a thirteen minute track that further elaborates on the opening track and ends by musically referring to it. This would have made for a perfect ending to the album. The final song 'The Elemental' than sound a bit out of place with its songy feel and slightly flat mixing job. I actually rated the album as if this was just a bonus track.

In conclusion. With or without Gong legitimacy, this is the most charming space rock (and perhaps Canterbury as well) album of 2019! If the band would want to improve on this effort, it would have to expand on that varied Allenesque psychedelic songwriting - which also had a certain humanity to it. The jazzy instrumental space rock part is about as good as it could get in this tradition.

friso | 4/5 |


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