Gong - Rejoice! I'm Dead! album review

Gong's post-Daevid Allen release hits all the right notes.

Gong cover art for Rejoice! I'm Dead!

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Merry psychedelic prankster Daevid Allen’s first posthumous release – afforded further unwelcome poignancy by the recent passing of his former partner, muse, Gong co-founder and space whisperer Gilli Smyth – may not be overly endowed with his physical presence, but it’s entirely steeped in his spirit.

Lacking Daevid Allen’s presence, it’s entirely steeped in his spirit.

There’s just a single Allen composition among the album’s nine tracks – the unnerving, spiral maelstrom that is Kapital, where staccato sax exclamations jab from the mix, counter to an opiated dream-state vocal and an ambient flotation tank of e-bowed guitar – yet he makes two vocal interjections. Over the morning-after piano, sultry stand-up bass and smoky sax interlude of Beatrix, his voice emerges from the ether, intoning ghostly, cryptic French, slightly out of phase with this mortal coil, like a haphazardly detuned radio broadcast from the great beyond. And as Model Village meanders toward fruition, Allen’s soothing Oz-tones are heard to recite a section from his poem Floating Anarchy Manifesto. As the piece develops, you feel the changing of the guard, though the metamorphosis of old Gong into new Gong is never once jarring.

Aside from Allen’s slight returns, there are familiar collaborators on hand to soften the process of change. From the 90s, there’s Graham Clark’s violin, and the mid-70s Flying Teapot era is recalled in the trademark guitar of Steve Hillage. A direct link to the heady days of ’71’s Camembert Electrique comes courtesy of Didier Malherbe’s sax.

But today’s Gong are no mere wet-behind-the-plectra neophytes – they’ve all toured with the band extensively, and served and recorded behind Allen. The most recent recruit is ex-Cardiacs and Monsoon Bassoon man Kavus Torabi who, as the band’s guitarist and lead vocalist since 2014, is to all intents and purposes the ‘new’ Daevid Allen. So how does he fare? His vocal style isn’t exactly robust – at its core it echoes the Canterbury stylings of Caravan’s Pye Hastings – but it’s perfect for Rejoice! I’m Dead!’s largely exemplary material.

From the astoundingly dynamic The Thing That Should Be to the closing Insert Yr Own Prophecy, surprising time signatures abound, moods are routinely altered and Allen’s life celebrated in the most apposite way imaginable: with a joyous expansion of his extraordinary musical vision.

As Rejoice! breaks down into a gloriously authentic recollection of Fohat Digs Holes In Space, you can only smile in the sure and certain knowledge that Daevid Allen’s legacy remains in the safest possible hands. Rejoice! I’m Dead!, then. Not so much a requiem as a rebirth.

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Gong: Camembert Electrique

Gong: The Great Farewell

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 20 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.