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22 February 2016

Gong - 'Flying Teapot: Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1' (Charly)

I'm a bad Gong fan, because I don't own anything beyond this first part of the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, nor could I really tell you what it's all about, even though the story is written out, by hand, in the gatefold sleeve. But who's gonna take the time to read this? Instead you can drift off on the psychedelic voyage presented by Mr. Allen and friends, and listen to his voice, focusing on the lyrics when you want to and letting the guitars, flutes and echoing resonance take you to new dimensions of sound and spirit. This is a pretty solid album though, significantly more progventurous than Camembert, though at the expensive of, well, cohesion. We have two titular tracks here, 'Radio Gnome Invisible' which opens things up as a hard introduction to the Gnomish concept; then, the 12:30 of 'Flying Teapot'. Most of side one is taken up by this second cut, which shifts from movement to movement in an epic manner yet stays nimble - it feels almost like it doesn't repeat or go back into themes, but maybe it's because I feel my brain get baked just by listening. I like the diversity here, and we have long instrumental runs that take this record just a small step closer to Genesis territory than before - this isn't totally insane NWW-list Futura-prog at all, but feels druggier because of the cultural associations around this kind of music. Maybe it's the chord changes, or the modalities, or the saxophones and guitars interacting in a certain way, but it definitely feels like prog-rock, though Daevid Allen's singing brings things back to la-la land. There are slow, spacious passages with tape loops and wind instruments making abstract soundscapes, but then also lively and exuberant rock jams. If anything, it's a treasure map being laid out that has an irrepressible personality, yet fits well within the context of early 70s prog-space rock. Hawkwind are a good comparison perhaps, but Gong is goofier and therefore they've always been more to my tastes. Side two handily shifts between sounds - 'The Pot Head Pixies' has the same hooky/manic energy as Camembert's 'Fohat Digs Holes in Space'; 'Zero The Hero and the Witch's Spell' moves between exploratory noodling over a light jazz-rock base to a thick, slow space-dirge in just a matter of minutes. 'Witch's Spell/I Am Your Pussy' ends things with Gilli Smyth intoning about modern Wiccan rituals, or something - by this point you can practically smell the smoke wafting in from .... somewhere? Gatefold cover so you can roll your joints in it, of course. I don't have parts two or three so I guess we'll never know what happens to this invisible gnome, but I guess he probably starts getting really into jazz fusion.

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