Hail the Magick Brother
Gong return with a new line up and their first album since 2009 (2032). Original front man Daevid Allen is once again the constant link and he brings in a fine blend of musicians, including his son Orlando Allen on drums. With Allen in recuperation from long term health problems the band weren't able to promote the album as much as they would have liked, which is a shame as this is an album that really deserves to be heard.
The standard is set from the start with opening track I See You. This is classic Gong and could easily have been lifted from any of the classic early 70s trilogy albums. Daevid Allen's distinctive meandering vocal is instantly recognisable, as is the style of delivery, which manages to be both relaxed and purposeful at the same time.
Occupy is reminiscent of old favourite Dynamite in the sense that it shakes the listener out of their comfort zone with it's massive repetitive riff and wailing sax. Then from nowhere breaks down into a short but mellow mid section before blasting off again into chaotic discord. It's the inventiveness and sheer musicality of Gong that strikes you on this album; nothing is done for the sake of it and there are no easy filler songs. Every track features a complicated riff, rhythm or tempo change but Gong are such masters at it that it never disrupts the flow of the music.
The Eternal Wheel Spins is a certain highlight as not only does it feature a vocal from the original space whisperer Gilli Smyth, at over seven minutes long it goes off on several tangents but always comes back to the core bass line.
The production is a little rawer than on preceding album 2032 and it gives the whole album a more driven and vibrant feel. Those that hailed guitarist Steve Hillage's return for 2032 and subsequently lamented his departure had nothing to fear as there is some superb guitar work on this album from Kavus Torabi and Fabio Golfetti. Allen is a past master at surrounding himself with incredibly talented musicians and he has certainly achieved that here.
Now this wouldn't be a Gong album without some reference to pixies and sure enough, it arrives in the form of Pixielation. It's all a bit silly, a bit whimsical and all very typical of Gong. You just have to take it for what it is and embrace it, and once you do it will always put a smile on your face!
The sleeve notes tell that Thank You is David Allen's heartfelt song to everyone that was involved in shaping Gong's legacy and it does have an air of finality about it, as indeed does the whole album. Given Allen's health there seems to be a clear recognition that this may be the last chance to put together a proper Gong album and it is therefore an opportunity to say what needs to be said. If this does turn out to be Daevid's last Gong album then he really couldn't have done a better job. It sounds fresh and yet comfortably sits alongside the classic 70s albums at the same time. Gong may carry on without him and if so then this is one glorious last page in the original Magick Brother's story.