Gong - 'The Universe Also Collapses'

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Gong - 'The Universe Also Collapses'

There is still plenty of life left in the group yet based on this evidence.

I really can't think of any other Rock group that have been through so many band members – according to the font of all knowledge that is Wikipedia, Gong are right now up to around fifty! In that time, such Prog luminaries as Steve Hillage, Bill Bruford and Tim Blake have passed through the ranks, and along with such an ever-revolving door of personnel there inevitably comes a very complicated history that would take up far more space than I'm allowed.

This latest album is the second without bandleader Daevid Allen – who died back in 2015 – and it stays pretty much true to form with its mixture of Psychedelic, Space and Jazz Rock. Comprising just the four tracks, this release once more showcases Gong's ability to switch genres, not just from song to song but in mid-track too.

The twenty-minute opener 'Forever Recurring' perfectly demonstrates this with an eclectic blend of styles; it starts off slowly before settling down into the main theme, and with the aid of a bristling saxophone and some lively guitar work, this monster of a song never loses one's attention. Anyone who is familiar with Gong's past works will not be disappointed with this offering, but then the following track 'If Never I'm And Ever You' is less strong and being a (very) short number, it doesn't really have time to grow and go anywhere which is mainly due to it being just far too simple!

Fortunately, everything gets back on track with the thirteen-minute 'My Sawtooth Wake' which once more sees the saxophone take a leading role; it twists and turns but still maintains a cohesiveness that's quite appealing. 'The Elemental' rounds it all off and it's actually quite catchy (hell, they've even produced a radio edit of this one!) with hand claps and a cool brass riff that drives the song. This could possibly be the most commercial sounding that Gong have ever been and yet it still retains a lot of their Progressive elements.

Anyone who was around in the seventies and lived through their golden 'Radio Gnome Invisible' period will be more than satisfied with this album. They are without doubt an acquired taste, but there is still plenty of life left in the group yet based on this evidence.

Malcolm Smith

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