Sharp and focused, legendary collective who lost their leader reimagine themselves to carry on and enjoy the journey.
Chaotic element has always been part of this band’s method – deliberately so – but, knowing the end was nigh, Daevid Allen painstakingly crafted a new sonic identity for his group, and their first album without the founder crystallizes it in full. The record’s root is “All I Ask,” Allen’s non-musical testament that declares a primacy of freedom in celebration of life, so while the ensemble lament “mystic, fool, radiant jewel, teacher, wise man” in the transparent glimmer of “Through Restless Seas I Come” and give their grief a gravity, his ghost is here, given voice in the “Beatrix” recital and silent elsewhere.
The funky “Rejoice!” may echo Daevid’s manifesto by stating the group’s Steve Hillage-assisted course – “even if the question’s wrong, the answer still remains the same” – though there are many inquiries hiding behind the fusion romanticism of “The Unspeakable Stands Revealed” and coming to the fore on an anthemic rock ‘n’ roll swell. With singing guitarist Kavus Torabi assuming a captain’s role, the course has become both more blissful as demonstrated in a sterile pastorale of “Model Village” and more topical than ever before, and the anger of the “Occupy” movement in “Kaptial” that Dave Sturt’s motorik bass propels towards delirium is spelled in orchestral splashes. It’s an intensive, progressive, epic journey to the normality, the entropic kind of, as outlined in “The Thing That Should Be” whose salvo-stoked riffs send the band sailing through various reefs in the safety net of slide and Ian East’s sax.
As serious as its subject is, closer “Insert Yr Own Prophecy” emerges as the most effervescent, effusive, even aggressive piece on display… only it offers a serenity and peace of mind for a triumphant finale. There’s no reason to worry about GONG’s destiny: it’s still happening.