It only takes a single earful of Mother to ascertain that it comes beaming back at us from a very different world. Planet Gong: an enclosed enclave of 1978 that sounds an awful lot like 1971. While it’s irrefutable that Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth’s Gong were tirelessly progressive, the direction in which they progressed followed an unwavering, monogeneric path.
Theirs was a singular destination and the musical vistas they explored along the way were always unmistakeable and ultimately, quite unique. When Allen and Smyth embraced punk for Floating Anarchy in ’77 with Here & Now, common ground was spiritual rather than musical. So while a generation of punk radicals chose to soundtrack their graduation from squat to peace convoy with Allen’s introspective new age mischief and Smyth’s seductive squeals, Gong’s Gnome-flavoured fondue of cheese dream-driven, free-jazz soundscapes and conceptual continuity wavered not a jot. Consequently, few noticed that much of Gilli Smyth’s Mother (Shakti Yoni, O.K. Man This Is Your World, Time Of The Goddess) was built upon sound collages of recordings made during ’71’s Camembert Electrique sessions at the Château d’Hérouville and live at Dingwalls’ Greasy Truckers Party of ’73 (Taliesin).
Nor was anyone particularly surprised that the then 45-year-old Smyth maintained her coquettishly sexy space-whisper delivery for her signature piece, Shakti Yoni (to the instantly identifiable accompaniment of Allen, bassist Christian Tritsch, drummer Pip Pyle and saxophonist Didier Malherbe). Meanwhile, Smyth’s poetically structured lyrics combine the potent sexual power of the Earth Mother with an intrinsically 70s line in Spare Rib-informed gender politics, where witches and prostitutes stand as admirable exemplars of feminist self‑determination.