Gong

Shapeshifter

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AllMusic Review by

For their first album of new material in over 20 years, the real Gong (i.e., one led by Daevid Allen and containing a number of players from the classic '60s-'70s period) offer -- well, much of what made them so popular in the first place. There's an impish sense of humor to the lyrics, Gilli Smyth's deeply echoing space whisper, stunning sax and flute work from the criminally underrated Didier Malherbe, and plenty of trademark glissando guitar from Allen himself. Goddesses are invoked, gnomes are mentioned, and rhubarb is eaten, among many other things. Guitarist Steffi Sharpstrings fills what was Steve Hillage's role with plenty of post-punk energy, but really it all revolves around Allen's personality and some stunning music. Time's been kind to Gong. Their pioneering space rock ways found a home with the ambient crowd and their music shows they've listened to what's gone on and incorporated it into their sonic journey, which is part prog rock, part jazz, and part just out there. "Can You: You Can," a live cut from 1992, with its wonderful improvisations, is a prime example, although even better is the long closer "Goddess Inovation/Om Riff," where they hammer to infinity and beyond. Veteran Pip Pyle shows a light, steady touch on the drums, Allen is even more inventive than before, and the refusal to take themselves completely seriously keeps it floating along. Having this band together before recording in the studio was obviously a good idea; they mesh perfectly, and it's good to have a classic back, energetic and full of ideas.

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