Charly 1978 / Esoteric 2016
Beyond the id: GONG matriarch’s transcendental trip into feminine liberation.
When Gilli Smyth left her artistic tribe in mid-’70s to concentrate on raising kids, she didn’t become a housewife by default but wisely used this time for self-exploration. Not the kind of evolution to be televised, although there was a kitchen-sink detail to Smyth’s creations during that period, Gilli’s new experience resulted in this album which overturns the quiet joys of motherhood in favor of a slightly disturbing set of songs – aided and abetted, of course, by Daevid Allen.
So she may concede to a certain traditional notion in the jazzy “OK Man, This Is Your World” yet, playfully sliding from vaudeville to acid folk, the fairy tale of “I Am A Fool” reverses both societal and gender roles from the beginning. Snippets of spoken word that enhance songs expand the titular context on an universal scale – “I am a mother of everything!” proclaims Smyth in “Back To The Womb”as if it was her primal scream – for the ethereal vocals on “Time Of The Goddess” to weave in and out of metronomic percussion and sparse reeds and take one’s consciousness to a higher level.
Still, while the lysergic “Shakti Yoni” is comprised of rhythm-and-blues and raga, Gilli’s cooing and Daevid’s mantra make the pixie madness spiritual, whereas “Next Time Ragtime” tries to embrace the future through acoustic strum mixed with bleak, albeit hilarious, dialogue commenting on the period’s state of affairs. It echoes the noir-ish contradictions of “Prostitute Poem, Street Version” but medieval motifs of “Taliesin” – incorporating GONG’s live tape from 1973 and featuring their classic line-up – stitch modern nightmares to an ancient legend. A reality check for children and a paean to a liberated woman, “Mother” doesn’t caress the listener yet there’s care in its quirk.