July 19, 2024

Gong Expresso – “Decadence” : a jazzy wander from psychedelic fellow-travellers

THE ORCHARD                                   20/2/2018

Slowly wandering guitar leads a bass and some scarcely brushed cymbals through an opening jazzy landscape and setting the scene for… more of the same. Equal partners, the bass steps up to lead sometimes and the drums make lazy patterns.

I’ll confess to idly offering to review this, thinking of happy nights with arch-space pilot, Daevid Allen Coe and wiggy hippy fellow travellers. I forgot what a wandering path the Gong family have taken. Daevid, of course, passed on to a different plane a few years ago, departing as graciously and beautifully as he lived. However, along his lengthy earthly musical journey, his Gong collective was as much an idea as a band, with ever-shifting line-ups and even completely different bands. There was Gong, of course, but there was Gong Expresso, Mother Gong, Acid Mothers Gong, Here & Now, Daevid Allen Coe’s University Of Errors and plenty of others. Gong Expresso was formed as an offshoot by Pierre Moerlen and went by the usual variety of names. Since he, too left for the cosmic spaceways, this band sees his brother, Benoit Moerlen, Francois Causse, Hansford Rowe and guitarist Julien Sandiford take up the reins. It’s as much an idea as a line-up, with Benoit and Hansford Rowe as the sole original members. Though, as part of the wonderful tangle that is the Gong family, Benoit also played on Gong’s most well-known album, Camembert Electrique. As Mark E Smith once said “If it’s me and yer granny on bongos, it’s The Fall”. If there is a relative of a band member and it fits the Gong ethos, it’s a Gong offshoot album. And why not?

I hear elements of Grant Green in the guitar, particularly his more spacious quartet recordings. The trio is gentle and unfolds patterns in your ears, functioning as a quiet thoughtful focus. Vibes and marimba from Benoit Moerlen lend a quietly smooth feel and the set floats by like a meditation on cool.

No one track stands out and the whole stands as an enjoyable and peaceable jazz set, something to quieten and focus the over-busy mind.

About Author