Gong have been going in one form or another for over 40 years now, some giving them the epithet "The European Grateful Dead" for the legion of loyal fans, community even, that surrounds them, and also for their similar acid drenched beginnings. Like The 'Dead, I have always struggled to get into Gong, and their innate silliness prevents me from listening to the few albums I have by them on anything more than a very occasional basis.
The 2004 version of the band, still fronted by Daevid Allen, and featuring co-founder Gilli Smith on one track are here teamed up with Kawabata Makoto (guitars & bazouki) & Cotton Casino (synths & voices) from the equally bizarre Acid Mothers Temple, a band whose promise more often than not far exceeds their delivery. Prince is or was famous for his lack of quality control, releasing lots of below par stuff, but he's got nothing on these guys who seem to release absolutely everything they put on tape, and at an alarming rate. But that's another story.
The pairing of Gong's daftness with AMT's noiseniks actually works, and what could have been entirely unlistenable is actually not bad at all. The album maybe lacks the thematic quality of Gong's best work (the Hillage/Allen era imo) and veers from gentle space balladry to noise freakouts, to a weird noise-funk hybrid on the marvellous Supercotton where the "space whisper" synth of Ms Smith & Cotton Casino's synth drones are backed by a belting off-kilter funk beat. Brainwash Me has a sub Talking Heads funk groove put through a blender - splendid!
On the slower tracks Makoto actually plays some fluent lead in places, but it's sometimes difficult to tell whether or not it's him or Daevid Allen doing the widdly bits. As Makoto wrote Bazuki Logix I can only assume it's him on uncharacteristic whimsical lead guitar.
All in all a rather unexpectedly good album. A friend of a friend who is a big Gong fan described this as "unlistenable", but in my opinion it's anything but.
3 out of 5 - A truly hideous cover though!
You can get this on mp3 on Amazon at a much more reasonable £6.99 by the way.
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