Thursday, July 25, 2024

Gong – Unending Ascending

Formed in the late ’60s by psych visionary Daevid Allen, Gong in their earlier days were a pioneering band helping to evolve psych/space rock and did so with less of the hard rock approach adopted by bands like Hawkwind. If you’re checking Gong out for the first time, it’s worth bearing in mind, despite the similarities with the 70’s version, they’re a different band to when Daevid Allen and Stevie Hillside Village played with them.

But, whatever, throughout their now over 50-year history, despite their occasional periods of morphing in and out of various shapes .. the Pierre Moelin version of Gong, the ‘Shamal’ period etc .. they’ve always managed to retain a spiritual connection to the mothership of the original band. Since Daevid Allen’s passing on in 2015 they’ve been led by Kavus Torabi, who was personally anointed by Allen to carry the torch. And while the quirkiness and sense of fun of their classic albums may no longer be quite as apparent, they still manage to come up with really interesting music. On the albums released since Daevid Allen left the building, they’ve also managed to establish a kind of identity for themselves, one which doesn’t depend on ‘flying teapots’ and ‘pot head pixies,’ Unending Ascending is their third studio album without Allen and continues along the same path as the previous two, with nods towards the ’70s Gong on tracks like ‘Lunar Evocation’  and ‘Ship Of Ishtar,’ harking back to Gong’s 1974 album You. It’s a nine-minute voyage through the spheres and it’s easy to imagine Daevid Allen nodding with approval at these tracks, showing the band still retains some degree of quirky eccentricity.

‘Tiny Galaxies’ opens proceedings and has faint echoes of Syd Barrett-era Floyd. If Barrett’s life story was ever filmed, Kavus Torabi could be a candidate for the role. ‘O Arcturus’ leans towards late ’60s psych with good usage of glissando guitar. But they also rock out a little on tracks like ‘All Clocks Reset’ and ‘Choose Your Goddess,’ powered by a driving insistent guitar riff and wailing sax, and also ‘My Guitar Is A Spaceship,’ with the line “unending Ascending, sending love from the Planet Gong”. What a pity Jimi Hendrix didn’t come up with a title like this. The album ends with ‘Asleep Do We Lay,’ which is a quieter ambient piece and soothes the listener as it fades away.

Unending Ascending is a good mix of songs and musical passages and, while the swirling synth waves are not as prevalent as on earlier albums, nonetheless this version of Gong remains true to the spirit of its founder.

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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Formed in the late ’60s by psych visionary Daevid Allen, Gong in their earlier days were a pioneering band helping to evolve psych/space rock and did so with less of the hard rock approach adopted by bands like Hawkwind. If you’re checking Gong out for...Gong - Unending Ascending