Phantom Rhythm

Gong Gong Gong

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Phantom Rhythm Review

by Paul Simpson

Gong Gong Gong is a duo from Beijing who play an alarmingly stripped-down form of hypnotic rock which spiritually evokes the blues as well as punk, but otherwise can't be directly compared to any other genre or artist. The instrumentation consists almost entirely of Tom Ng's guitar (and a barely audible shaker) and Josh Frank's bass, which interlock to form insistently chugging rhythms. Ng sings entirely in Cantonese, and his lyrics (as indicated by the translated lyric sheet included with the vinyl pressing of the album) express frustration and anxiety, but ultimately provide words of encouragement. In some cases, this is as direct as the simple calls to action of "Ride Your Horse" and "Gong Gong Gong Blues," but "Notes Underground" acknowledges the good and the bad in this struggle called life, and "Some Kind of Demon" strings together seemingly unconnected phrases in a statement of uncertainty and confusion. Considering how limited their set-up is, and how repetitive their song structures are, they manage to evoke a sizeable range of styles and moods, from the appropriately galloping, Western feel of the aforementioned "Ride Your Horse" to the funky basslines of "Moonshadows." The songs are all tense and tightly wound, but there are several instances where they let off steam at just the right moment, such as the excited shouts during the ultra-catchy "Wei Wei Wei," or basically any moment when the distortion pedals go into overdrive. Closing track "Sound of Love" is certainly the best example of this, riding its Motorik rhythm to a thrilling conclusion filled with mangled guitar riffs and delay. Gong Gong Gong is most certainly an acquired taste -- their austerity is just as likely to attract some listeners as it might repel others. But their ability to create such a big, imposing sound out of limited elements is fascinating, and the determination which drives their work is admirable.

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