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Gong Expresso: Decadence

The history of the band name Gong is a convoluted one - as is the history of the band itself to be fair. Offshoots and iterations of Gong going under names such as Mother Gong, Planet Gong, New York Gong and Gongmaison. At one point drummer and percussionist Pierre Moerlen became the de-facto leader of Gong itself, before that incarnation morphed into the rather unimaginatively named Pierre Moerlen's Gong and turned the progressive jazz-space-prog rock of the band down a slightly more obviously jazzy path.

Now, after the sad passing of Pierre in 2005, we have Gong Expresso featuring 'Gong alumni Francois Causse, Benoit Moerlen and Hansford Rowe with guitarist Julien Sandiford' and their new album is titled Decadence. In truth the results aren't all that decadent at all, the smooth if sprightly jazz playing things reasonably safe and having even less to do with the initial Gong sound than Pierre's version turned out to. That doesn't mean this instrumental fare is without merit, but as the bass, guitar, drums and marimba ensemble ease from the waverings of "Zephyr" to the dreamy moods of "Eastern Platinum", so you yearn for something a little more feisty or at least that feels not quite so controlled and contained.

The craft is without question and it has to be said there's a real bond between the four musicians that leaves a remarkable cohesion to the flow and pulse of "Frevo" and "The Importance Of Common Things". However, in all reality you're left grasping for something just a little more eventful and daring. Decadence is classy and cared for and there's no denying it can in places be a seductive beast. However for large parts things just bob along in a fashion that's a little too care free and lacking for any real direction.

Track Listing
1. Decadence
2. Zephyr
3. Toumani
4. Talisman
5. The Importance Of Common Things
6. Eastern Platinum
7. Frevo
8. God Knows

Added: June 22nd 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Gong Expresso on Facebook
Hits: 848
Language: english

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Gong Expresso: Decadence
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2018-06-22 06:05:44
My Score:

In some respects the Gong family tree is as complicated as some other bands we know. I’m thinking of Yes for starters. In 1967 the original Gong was formed by the great Australian Daevid Allen (RIP), a cosmic hippie if there ever was one and Gilli Smyth, an English vocalist. Drummer Pierre Moerlen joined the band a few years later and after Allen, Smyth and Blake left in the mid ‘70s he was left to pick up the pieces. The music took on more fusion elements under his tutelage and the band released Shamal in 1976. Fast forward to the year 2005 and Moerlen’s tragic passing. Gong Expresso has picked up the reigns left by Moerlen and includes past members of the Gong entourage; Hansford Rowe (bass), Benoit Moerlen (vibes, marimba) and Francois Causse (drums, percussion) along with young guitarist Julien Sandiford.

Their debut album Decadence was released in 2017 and those expecting the scintillating heat filled fusion from years ago might be somewhat surprised here. Yes the fusion is strong with this album but it is the subtle aspects that are so revealing. The title track opens the disc with bended guitar notes set at a leisurely pace. The drums enter in an oh so subtle way never forcing the issue but letting the music flow in an almost trippy way. The groove slowly develops built on Rowe’s outstanding bass figure before the guitarist further develops his notes and chords. An excellent player as he is exhibits the uncommon trait of restraint that I wish other players would adapt. On “Zephyr” the band explores mood and texture with the playing as elegant as it was on the opening track. The vibraphone is integral here, almost taking the role of the keyboard in a jazz quartet. The busy drum work of Causse shows his unlimited skill behind the kit. “Toumani” is another excellent laid back track building layers as the instruments are added, again the vibes taking the place of piano adding melody as the slowly picked guitar arpeggios and languid bass fill in the gaps.

Decadence has indeed been an unexpected surprise. If you are a fan of Gong related music this is something you will want to check out.

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