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Gong - Pentanine CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

2.96 | 63 ratings

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2 stars Pierre's Pit-Crew are the Pits

Since when did Gong become a franchise? Planet Gong, New York Gong, Mother Gong, Acid Mothers Gong, Gong Global Family, Gongzilla, Swiss Family Gong, Gong R'us and Pierre Moerlen's Gong have all appropriated the name with various and often conflicting motives with which to expound on the group's mythology. It is perhaps the jazz fusion branch of the network that could be deemed furthest removed from the hippy cosmology wafting from Head Office. That ain't a bad thing in my book, as pig-farming egyptologists who receive alien radio broadcasts via their earrings and take to the skies in vessels originally designed to house hot beverages are usually more than sufficient to 'rip a rodent's knitting' big time. I've never yet made it through any of the Radio Gnome trilogy efforts on a full stomach but liked the plain vanilla fusion material of Gazeuse sufficiently to take a punt on this album from 2004. Lemmings are very short sighted creatures and my cash was inside the till before I managed to decipher from the sleeve that this was just Moerlen and some Russian speed typists he hooked up with in Moscow circa 2002.

Musea's helpful description of their wares declares: Thirteen instrumental pieces full of groove, power and sophistication are to be heard, some more hypnotic or peaceful moments being also present in a very melodic jazz-rock fusion style.

What is there not to like?

For those consumers amongst us who might wish to make the desired 'informed choice' hereabouts try this:

Store your ambient hippy baggage in the overhead lockers on a smoother than silk flight that unlike 'Teapot Airlines' is strictly non-smoking. Between the roomy aisles you will be served minuscule portions of dried and professionally airbrushed nibbles that would struggle to satisfy your pedigree chihuahua ensconced safely in the hold.

God if one of these guys farted I'm sure the studio walls were tripped to fill the place with concealing pot-pourri. It's all very urbane, polite and professional 'north of the waist' but lacks the southern 'baby makers' to fill those roomy Cossack pants. These guys are but time served mechanics to Moerlen's racing driver. Once again Pierre leaves behind further evidence that he was was one of the finest and most versatile skin thumpers on the planet. I enjoy both his drumming and mallet percussion considerably more than I do the compositions here. His collaborators have chops in abundance but a finger-bowl of melodic ideas from which to draw upon and almost every track develops along wearyingly familiar lines:

A short melodic motif on vibes is repeated over a static harmony for circa 4 bars and then is transposed intact to fit over the next static harmony in the chain for the next 4 bars etc. All manner of fiendish meter changes and solos from the 'School of Widdley' are deployed en route but the sheer numbing predictability of these fraudulent mystery tours is enough to clot the capillaries in your ears. It's not an entirely featureless landscape however but what peaks/depths exist do not require any ropes or crampons:

Airway to Seven - Most composers compelled to tell you their piece is in 7 beat phrase length must have something to hide. It's not normally something like this fondant monstrosity of nonchalant calm. Circa 1 min 45 secs (ish) there is a piano solo that sounds chillingly familiar to (gulp) Body Talk by soul/dance criminals Imagination.

Pentanine Part 1 - Occupies the sort of dreamy arpeggiated territory inhabited by Happy the Man and ain't bad with a 5 beat phrase length and a lovely synth patch from Meehail Ogorodov to perk proceeding up but halts very clumsily and abruptly to embark on some twittering whirry electronica which leads exactly nowhere but eats up the clock.

Trip a la Mode - Either an affectionate homage to the gamelan guitar Discipline era Crimson or a shameless rip off. (You pays yer money etc) Decent but as accomplished a bass player as Alexai Pleschunov is, he sure ain't no Tony Levin. I could also have lived without the 'dance handclaps' fellas.

Classique - This does possess a welcome bit of grunt about it but the same rhythmic phrase is repeated ad infinitum throughout and comes to resemble a flightless bird's increasingly desperate attempts at migration. Fusion appears to have hatched countless dodos like this critter.

Lacheur - Nice subtle swung sixteenths feel a la hip-hop but yet again the same modest idea is stretched to breaking point.

Blue Nuit - Someone appears to have tremulously asked for the directions to the suburbs of 'bombastic' on this number. Perhaps the most fully realised composition on offer as it has a clear statement, development and conclusion that most of the other tracks lack. Arkady Kuznetsov really steps up to the plate on this one with a fine and poignant fuzz guitar solo which even contains some lyrical ideas I can remember afterwards. On the downside it has an climactic ending that makes coitus interruptus seem elegant by comparison.

Judging by the welter of competing claims to the rich and varied Gong legacy, there are many out there who would say with some justification that this really ain't the 'real McGong' as the only founding member to hand is that of Pierre Moerlen. My knowledge of this group is admittedly extremely limited but they appear to oscillate between the polar opposites of dippy hippy tomfoolery and sterile anodyne conservatism. I probably need to explore their vast output some more as there must exist somewhere a much happier middle ground than that represented by Pentanine

ExittheLemming | 2/5 |


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