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Mother Gong

O Amsterdam

Review by Gary Hill

If Hawkwind were to perform with classical instruments it would sound a lot like this. That is, if every song were written around a poetry reading by a woman. That’s the main musical texture of Mother Gong here. You’ll hear more pure jazz here and there and some signs of King Crimson-like music. This live recording is quite powerful, but there are moments here and there where I get a bit lost. The truth is, this music is quite unique and also quite powerful. It’s a darned good CD and I imagine that had you been in the audience it must have been one heck of a show.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Gong Friends
Keyboards bring this up.  Ambient instruments swirl about as poetry is read in a dramatic way over the top. This is odd, but also intriguing. The sounds rise and fall seemingly independent of the spoken word. One could look on this as a symphonic, classical space rock poetry reading. About half way through this rises up into a powerful space rock jam. With the acoustic, classically oriented instrumentation this feels rather like early King Crimson meets Hawkwind. It’s a great jam that I like a lot. We get plenty of space weirdness yet, the more acoustic, natural instrumentation brings a certain elegance to the affair. It gets noisy at times, but is always entertaining.

Terrorist
Shrill shouted vocalizations combine with noisy musical elements for the introduction here. Everything drops away with the poetry recitation coming in unaccompanied. After a time the instruments rise up in noisy, orchestral ways. This is a short track, but frankly, I don’t think it works as well as the opener.
Dream Star
The first truly rock-textured piece, this rises up slowly, very much like a more classically oriented Hawkwind. We get lines of Middle Eastern melody playing across in dramatic ways. While a more hard rocking guitar plays in the background we get violin weaving melody over the top in something that reminds me a bit of “Assassins of Allah.”  It’s nearly half way through the track before the poetry enters here. This cut is one of the strongest on show here. It includes some exceptionally tasty instrumental work and a killer main riff.
Armageddon
This one is quite textural in terms of the music, which sits far behind the poetry reading here. I like the echoed effect on “Armageddon.” Around the half way mark the instruments come up to take us on a potent jazz excursion. This is another highlight of the CD.
Robot Woman
The words are delivered over a cool, nearly funky backdrop. This never really goes far from its origins, but instead is sort of a piece of musical theater, even more so than the rest of the stuff here.

Today Is Beautiful
Ambient music serves as the backdrop for the poetry on this one. Eventually it moves out into a killer instrumental motif that somehow reminds me a bit of early King Crimson mixed with Traffic and Hawkwind. This section of the track is amongst the best music on show here.
Love
Poetry begins this unaccompanied. After a while sounds begin to come up, weaving waves of space sounds in the backdrop. The group begin a pounding sort of musical journey that is launched on classical instrumentation as “love” is repeatedly half sung, have whispered over the top. We get a tasty violin solo during this excursion.  We get some Arabic sounds and a steady increase in the pacing later before they pull it out to pure space.

Future Is Fantasy
More Hawklike, this really feels a lot like it could have fit in on one of the early albums by that band. It turns more jazz-like and I hear Birdsongs of the Mesozoic on this arrangement later. This is another highlight of the disc and covers a good deal of musical ground.

Email from the Office of the Most High
How can you argue with that title? The early parts of this has the readings nearly unaccompanied, but the sounds grow into noisy weirdness after a while. About halfway through they finally rise up into an inspired, jazz like jam that’s quite cool. The violin carries the melody into all new worlds of drama and beauty as they work their way along. It dissolves a bit into near chaos later in the number until they finally end things.
 
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