It is indeed fitting that what will sadly turn out to be Daevid Allen’s last contribution to the long and sinuously snaking tendril-waving musical timeline that is Planet Gong is an undoubted return to form. With their best album in years, Gong and Allen remind us what makes them so vital, energetic and unique, even after all those crazy years.
Wearing black and white striped leggings, and a white-lettering-on-black tank top bearing the legend “Nobody Knows I’m A Lesbian”, the camera has caught Daevid just past a beatific smile, eyes closed, in the group picture on the first page of the lovely integral digipak booklet. The youthful looking clear-skinned septuagenarian exudes the impish charm that has been his and our constant companion for all those years at the helm of the good ship Gong, and just looking at the picture you just know that the music on this CD is going to be a bit special.
The new twin-guitar attack sees Brazilian Fabio Golfetti adding his more melodic touches to the acidic and fiery lines of Knifeworld man Kavus Torabi, with the pair complimenting each other perfectly. The tunes exhibit a fresh energy that propels Gong back into being a force to be reckoned with after the rather patchy 2032 album from five years previous.
The composition of the music is shared around the band, and lyrics are mostly Daevid’s, his lyrics showing that he is not letting the growing limitations of the physical plane dampen his political instincts, and the usual whimsy is for the most part subsumed by a revolutionary zeal that is as strong as it ever was. Just a casual glance at some of these track titles will tell you that the chief Pixie’s heart and head are still definitely in the right place, and that he ain’t going down without a fight.
The opening title track, split into two parts, being later reprised with You See Me, arose from Daevid’s interest in modern classical composers and their use of portamenti. Esoteric musical technicalities aside, I See You is a strong start and instantly recognisable as a Gong composition. Daevid’s interest and involvement in the infotainment age, social media, and social injustice shine through in this and many other lyrics on the album. His impish (gnomic?) sense of humour is still present and correct, as his tale of slightly addled synapses, failing bodies, and memories held in just one piercing stare, all contained within the puntastic and dreamy Zion My T-Shirt bears witness. The eyes have it!
The centrepiece of the album, This Revolution, namechecks and is a Gong-flavoured take on Gil Scott-Heron and his seminal The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. A poem from Daevid on the theme of a soon-come revolution of the consciousness spoken over Kavus’ simple but effective e-bow guitar, this is the spirit of Daevid Allen and Gong writ large. Marvellous stuff!
All Daevid’s young cohorts play together as a team with panache, as well as shining when the individual spotlight falls on them. Kavus Torabi composed the music to When God Shakes Hands With The Devil, and his spidery riff is straight out of the Knifeworld cabinet. The following The Eternal Wheel Spins was written by the other guitarist Fabio Golfetti, originally for his Brazilian band Violeta de Outono, here given the Gong stamp. A glissando space romp with bubbling bass, the main guitar part is Kavus’, with Fabio’s classical guitar shining too.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Gong album without at least one track of full-on Gnomic whimsy, and perhaps obviously from the title, Pixielation is that particular romp. A long rambling tale from Daevid, themed on nature, nurture, pixies, elves, Daevid tells us “We are utterly invisible, but wot we really love is a joke”. Marvellous!
Eerily given the circumstances, the album ends with two long “goodbye” tracks. Built on a slow snake-dancing riff with Daevid and Kavus slinking and sliding around one another, Thank You sees Daevid giving heartfelt thanks to everyone who has ever hitched a lift to Planet Gong. The riff eventually unravels completely, sinking into a kaleidoscopic psychedelic trance state, as indeed it should.
The album ends with a guest appearance from Gilli Smyth, who as alter-ego Shakti Yoni teams up with Daevid “Dino Virgin” for one last emotional transmission together from Radio Gnome. Her iconic “space whisper” is a fittingly evocative sound to send us home on a nine-and-a-half minute journey through the cosmos back to Planet Earth. As it says in the liner notes “there is probably no more fitting way of ending this album”.
If you have ever liked Gong, then this album is a must, regardless of any emotional baggage brought to the checkout by Daevid’s failing health, as it stands as a strong record in its own right. Daevid Allen and his bandmates can be proud.
01. I See You (3:33)
02. Occupy (2:54)
03. When God Shakes Hands With The Devil (5:40)
04. The Eternal Wheel Spins (7:04)
05. Syllabub (4:32)
06. This Revolution (3:50)
07. You See Me (2:40)
08. Zion My T-Shirt (6:18)
09. Pixielation (4:42)
10. A Brew Of Special Tea (1:22)
11. Thank You (10:35)
12. Shakti Yoni & Dino Virgin (9:30)
Total Time – 62:12
Daevid Allen – Vocals & Glissando Guitar
Dave Sturt – Bass
Ian East – Saxophone & Flute
Orlando Allen – Drums & Vocals
Fabio Golfetti – Guitar
Kavus Torabi – Guitar
Gilli Smyth – Space Whisper (12)
Record Label: Madfish Music
Year Of Release: 2014