Gilli Smyth - Mother album review

Shakti Yoni walks it like she whispers it.

Gilli Smyth Mother album artwork

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

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.

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 19 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.