“Gong is more than a band. It’s an idea. A way of life. A continuum that exists in all times, in all places, everywhere.”
So says the opening line of the press release accompanying the album now firing its way across sundry electronic circuitry into the deeper recesses of my noggin. In handing the Gong baton on to Kavus Torabi, Daevid Allen obviously recognised a fellow cosmic traveller, and the band have moved even further out of recognisable Gong orbit with this, the second “post-Allen” album from the long-running combo. Much like King Crimson, whose leader Robert Fripp has always maintained exists only when there is the correct collective of musicians around to play it, Gong has evolved from a mere band into a concept, a way of doing things.
This is apparent from the opening track, a twenty-minute epic entitled Forever Reoccuring that commences with familiar space whispers and glissando guitar pulling on the past, the track slowly, slowly, piling layers of sound upon themselves sliding in and out and occupying the same and different spaces. When the drums kick in and the trip is well underway a searing guitar underlines a transition to a different compositional structure, and one that any fan of Kavus’s band Knifeworld would be familiar with, the sax and guitar playing syncopated lines, referencing the present and future. All eras are present at once.
This is definitely a trippy record, how could it be otherwise, although my initial listen had me wondering how Kavus manages to separate Gong from his Knifeworld music, and has he managed it completely here, but I was paying attention to the wrong things. The Universe Also Collapses is a thematic record and the glissando guitar and synth accompaniment washes in and out of the mix, leaving me forgetting the Knifeworld references and focussing on what this album is trying, and mostly succeeding to be. As Kavus says “If we’re following Daevid’s idea (of what Gong is), then we are Gong and we have made this on our own terms. We are Gong and this is what Gong is.” It is inevitable that Kavus’s instantly recognisable compositional signatures would appear here, but taken as a whole, this is simply a new Gong, and these are the musicians who are destined to play that music. Robert Fripp would entirely understand.
Meanwhile the album has played on to track three of four, and everything has merged with the night, or as the sadly recently departed Roky Erikson would have it “I have always been here before”, everything exists at once. Gong has always been big on jamming out over riffs and My Sawtooth Wake is no exception to that rule, as I look at the track listing to see where I am. The riff is interrupted by some dream catching metaphorical nautical musing, in thrall to Greek goddess Hecate, a gateway to magick and sorcery. It’s all about “Tides and timings. Times and tide.” The song builds and builds, being tossed on broiling seas of wailing sax and synths. Marvellous! Yep, you see, this is Gong, innit?
The Elemental ends the album, catching us out with an intro featuring Kavus and a lone acoustic guitar. It turns into an alternate universe pop tune, an unexpected and fun twist. Gong always were big on fun, let us not forget. Naturellement, and in keeping with the ethos of the record we have returned the beginning, as it ever was. “I’ve got the medicine and if you’ve got the time, let’s take another ride through this crazy terrifying life” sings Kavus. I’m game if you are.
“Remember, there is only now”
01. Forever Reocurring (20:36)
02. If Never I’m And Ever You (2:27)
03. My Sawtooth Wake (13:15)
04. The Elemental (6:43)
Total Time – 43:05
Kavus Torabi – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonium
Fabio Golfetti – Lead Guitar, Gliss Guitar, Vocals
Ian East – Saxophones, Flute, Clarinet
Dave Sturt – Bass, Synth, Vocals
Cheb Nettles – Drums, Piano, Theremin, Vocals
Record Label: Kscope
Date of Release: 10th May 2019