Gong Expresso 2017
Slowly but surely: straight branch of pixies-planted tree reaches out for indulgence and a fall.
Here’s a new band whose very name may betray their pedigree to aficionados keeping in mind and holding in high esteem the two albums issued by GONG with Pierre Moerlen at the helm – “Gazeuse!” which was titled “Expresso” in North America, and “Expresso II” – before the venerable drummer turned it all into an official fusion offshoot of the prog stem. Pierre passed away in 2005, and the last record he’d laid down featured Russian musicians rather than usual suspects – yet now three of those, with a new guitarist, decided to carry on with his dream and deliver “Decadence”: an unhurried but immensely warm work of kindred souls.
Not for nothing there’s a reflective twang rippling through the record’s title track, underpinned by a bobbing bass and a sensual shimmer of cymbals and vibes which imbue the melodic meander with spiritual sparkle. All of a sudden, Hansford Rowe’s five-string spank starts to propels the tune towards a merrier twirl where it’s woven around Julien Sandiford’s sweet strum, yet Benoit Moerlen’s marimba and Francois Causse’s percussion are what will ultimately carry the almost intangible, if arresting, “Zephyr” to a translucent event horizon – even though, at first glance, there’s not much going on here. Still, “Decadence” is a logical continuation of "Downwind" and the album’s pieces are full of the same questing intrepidity as the group’s original fantasies, the mirage-like “Toumani” fragile but insistent, and the riffs shift in “Eastern Platinum” progressively expansive and exquisitely textured.
While “The Importance Of Common Things” has its cosmic, spacious jazz in a quasi-abstract, minimalist grip until bossa nova takes over, “Talisman” offers a muscular rumble in a glassy environment, and “Frevo” finds a few more tropical soundscapes to stream the ensemble’s delicate drift in. Escaping needless solemnity for the most part, the quartet embraced the universal jive in “God Knows” – arguably, the best example, or the essence, of their infectious electricity. Hopefully, the quartet’s charge will spark more chapters of their saga.