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Gong - The Universe Also Collapses CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.65 | 54 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars It's hard to believe that it's been four years since GONG founder Daevid Allen left this world and passed on into the eternal psychedelic haze that vibrates to form everything in the known universe but his legacy is strong as is the band that he founded way back in 1968 as it was his desire that new talent steer the psychedelic musical outfit into fresh new territories without losing the zeitgeist of the original intent. Following Allen's last album with GONG, the 2014 "I See You" came the 2016 "Rejoice! I'm Dead!" which showcased yet another version of GONG this time without Allen, without Pierre Moerlen and without any of the musicians that came and went throughout the band's lengthy existence.

While that album showcased that GONG was a viable unit taken into its next chapter of reality, the second post-Allen release THE UNIVERSE ALSO COLLAPSES pretty much leaves no doubt that GONG will continue on into the foreseeable future and seems to have found a new stable lineup with former Cardiacs and Knifeworld guitarist / vocalist Kavus Torabi, guitarist Fabio Golfetti, saxophonist / flautist / percussionist Ian East, ex-Jade Warrior bassist Dave Sturt and drummer / percussionist Cheb Nettles. While it's hard to imagine a post-Allen Gong actually pulling off the vision without one of the most unique personalities no longer in the scene, this new version of GONG has spent the last few years touring both by headlining as well as with another ex-GONG legend Steve Hillage.

Featuring only four tracks THE UNIVERSE ALSO COLLAPSES delves more into the classic psychedelic sounds of GONG's 70s period that incorporates funky bass grooves, glissando guitar, pulsing synth and haunting saxophone slides which takes a completely different approach than "Rejoice! I'm Dead!" Rather than developing the new sound set out on that album, THE UNIVERSE ALSO COLLAPSE casts its gaze into the classic GONG years for inspiration but in the process only displays why those classic albums are so classic and why this attempt to recapture those magical moments pales in comparison. While the band claims that the album aims to bridge the worlds of lysergic exploration and quantum physics, ultimately it fails to revive the golden years as its missing the whimsy and imaginative explorations that Allen along with his cosmic whisperer Gilli Smith were masters of.

The album starts with the 20 minute + "Forever Recurring" which insinuates some sort of multi-suite cosmic journey to planet Lysergia and back and to be honest it is the most psychedelic track on the album but after the slow brooding synthesized intro that slowly ushers in a rhythmic pulses and eventually lyrical content, the track just floats by without ever developing into anything more substantial. This is literally a 20 minute track that finds the same groove ad infinitum as the guitars, sax and heavier percussive forces join in. It's an ok track for sure but lacks the sheer variety of the classic years and becomes a tad monotonous even though it alternates between heavier and softer passages. Most of all it is woefully deprived of that playful introspective philosophical quandary and pixie fueled spontaneity of the Allen years.

"If Never I'm And Ever You" is a short intermission but a welcome dynamic relief with choppy guitar riffs and a heavier foray into the world of time signature rich progressive rock with stellar jazzy saxophone contributions. This track is much more interesting and i wish at least half of the time allotted for the first track was given to this one to develop as it has more potential. Next up is the second longest track "My Sawtooth Wake" which at slightly over 13 minutes sort of combines the psychedelic meandering of the first with the heavier punchiness of the second. Once again it's basically a repetitive cyclical loop of a bass groove, haunting synth and glissando guitar antics which after a couple minutes slows down and turns into a contemplative vocal sequence with different timing signatures and slow tempo. Much more interesting. Should've been the first track.

The finale "The Elemental" is completely different as it starts out with a clean rock guitar chord progression and instant vocals. The psychedelia has been replaced with more of a singer / songwriter approach which sets it apart from the rest of the album as well as pretty much anything in the known GONG universe. While it's not a bad song it does bring to focus Kavus Torabi's vocal style which unfortunately has neither sufficient charismatic magnetism nor the driving dynamics to really bring the track to full potential, which after a few listens to this album perfectly describes THE UNIVERSE ALSO COLLAPSES as an album. Despite the noble attempt to remain faithful to the band's overall vision, it feels like these guys are holding back from really making the band their own as if the great spirit of Allen watches in the background and remains steadfastly in the psyche of its current lineup.

Come on, guys! Let loose and let the creative juices flow. This sounds like a tribute band trying to capture GONG's glory days but without the wacky whimsy and dynamic sense of variety that made the Radio Gnome Trilogy years to special. The attempt to replicate Hillage's guitar style but not building upon it just sounds weak! This is a decent album but won't go down as one of the band's greatest achievements. Hopefully this new GONG will find a way to forge their way into the next chapter of the psychedelic music scene but they will have to step it up as there countless modern bands that have already found new directions to take psychedelic space rock. If you're hoping for a new album that will blow you away then look to the past but if you want a pleasant yet predictable slice of modern Canterbury infused psychedelic space rock then THE UNIVERSE ALSO COLLAPSES does satisfy on that level.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |


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