THE GONG FARMERS – Guano Junction

Spaceward 2021

Guano Junction

Quietly gorgeous yet never understated, sophomore effort finds Newmarket ensemble ensconced en plein air and eschewing claustrophobia by bringing in friends.

There are different sorts of shock: it’s a fact these artists are quite aware of, because, bringing the title of their second album within the context of their name, the British band don’t seem to exude too sweet an aroma – only the miasma seeping into the listener’s psyche will lull one’s soul with sounds as comforting as the sense of loss must require. That’s why the collective’s lyrical stanzas feel deceptively simple, while the words speaking volumes, and the tunes and arrangements come painted in pastel, but the opus’ overall impact couldn’t be stronger and more effective in getting under the most insensitive person’s skin – or under the callous surface of those misinterpreting the title and the name.

There’s a promise of wondrous worry produced by the anxious textures which ripple through the swelling strings in “As Sunlight Falls 1” before Mark Graham’s vocals break the pregnant serenity with solemn pining, yet it’s not until Andrew Keeling’s vigorous strum and David Jackson’s elegiac reeds back Alex Che’s fluttering voice in “Drive” that the record’s emotional charge is being released and initial half-abstractness is expanded to grip the masses’ hearts. Or, rather, hugs, for “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred” waltzes in split in two – outlining orchestral despair in the fractured bliss of the album’s beginning and forming the finale via the emphasis on analogue synths – whereas the belching groove of the title track, also divided to drift from acoustic to electric landscapes and from Keeling’s flute to Jackson’s sax, sculpts an atmosphere of riff-spiced urgency instead of expected new-age tranquility, as if set the scene for “Evergreen” whose lace and loops elevate the piece’s breezy balladry to spiritual experience.

So, though “Wednesday Afternoon” turns into vibrant, summery pop too, shifting tempos and ambiances up to a mariachi dance, and “Shave!” boils down to a frantic futuristic collage,”As Sunlight Falls 2″ soars on the violins’ wings into the realm of raga and chamber repose, and the flamenco-tinctured “Vista de Toledo” locates ab expectancy-laden paradise right here, on earth, making time stand still in awe of its melodic beauty. It might become chilly in the piano-led “Winter Hill” – further removing the songs’ tangible edge in favor of ethereal suspense – but “Dark Skies” exposes the stained-glass-like fragility of the ensemble’s sonic space, the ghostly organ and soaring guitar solo grounding the seagulls’ flight: the action needed for focusing on the listener’s inner cosmos.

That’s what can be called guano junction – and that’s what this magnificent record cleanses.


February 1, 2022

Category(s): Reviews
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