Gong: Camembert Electrique

Poignant, best-ever reissue for the early Gong masterpiece.

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For most Gong fans, Flying Teapot, Angel’s Egg and You represent a kind of audio nirvana containing the very best moments in the band’s career.

Yet for all their revered status not one of these titles ever made it into the Top 30. That honour falls to the relatively humble Camembert Electrique, originally released in 1971 by BYG Records in France. While Gong were working on You in the summer of 1974, Virgin reissued the archive album at the pocket-friendly price of just 59p, echoing their stunt with The Faust Tapes the previous year. Camembert Electrique is the point at which Gong begins to come into sharp focus. All the accumulated mythos and modus operandi that go into their intellectual and musical make-up are clearly signposted here in a way that Daevid Allen’s previous albums such as Magick Brother and Banana Moon hadn’t quite managed. The shimmering, spacey glissando interludes and dizzying mandala-riffing of Fohat Digs Holes In Space, You Can’t Kill Me, and the morphing dayglo psych whirling into nursery-rhyme singalongs, proved that Allen finally had assembled a team capable of relaying his florid Aquarian visions and tall tales with panache and humour, and also force and accuracy. This then is the blueprint from which the Radio Gnome Trilogy was refined and constructed, and whose influence extends to 2014’s I See You. Available on CD and 180gm vinyl, the latter restoring the musique concrète tape collage in the album’s run-out grooves, this beautifully packaged reissue contains perceptive liner notes, extensive reproductions of Allen’s sprawling, decorative lyric sheets as well as a crisp and sympathetic remastering. Camembert Electrique has never looked or sounded as good as this. Allen’s recent passing lends its reissue poignancy, and serves as a timely reminder of his brilliance.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.