Quality: 4.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5
Gong continues their strange adventure in sound with the second part of their Radio Gnome Invisible series. Daevid Allen is at the top of his game here, using a top notch group of musicians to colour his strange alternate reality. While this is of a piece with Flying Teapot, there are some serious changes here, almost universally for the better.
First off, the songs still sound epic, but the running times are not necessarily so. It feels like there is a lot more going on in the idea department and makes the album more than the sum of its parts. Following the story is even less necessary here than on Flying Teapot. Opening track "Other Side Of The Sky" may contain some story elements, but it's the sound of a nebula cloud slowly enveloping and disorienting the listener.
The synth patterns here also take a much stronger role in the backbone of the songs. On Flying Teapot synths served to create a touch of coloring and were more or less icing on the cake. Here there are some really innovative sequences tying songs together and creating awesome rhytmic beds. This is not to say that this is at all an electronic album as Steve Hillage provides some of his best space guitar here and Didier Malherbe throws in some often exotic sounding sax and clarinet.
Gong's jazz edge is additionally more pronounced on Angel's Egg. Drummer Pierre Moerlen is present on this disc and procedes to make the percussion an often restrained, but still lead instrument. His playing is technically superior, but also extremely musical and ensemble friendly unlike many flash players. He swings and sounds far looser than traditional flash players such as Neil Peart from Rush. When the wall of vibraphones breaks through halfway through "Love Is How You Make It," it never ceases to send a chill down my spine.
"Oily Way" is probably the catchiest track here. I doubt Gong was ever heading for any sort of mainstream success, but in my own alternate reality this would have been one of the early 70's big hits. Gilli Smyth gets another great chance to psychedelically vampl around on the strangely
dirty "Prostitute Poem."
Side two of the LP highlights Gong's instrumental prowess a little more with Daevid Allen receding just a bit on the mostly instrumental and totally spaced-out "Inner/Outer Temples," before the album ends with a few more wacked out Allen-led tracks.
Amusingly, the album comes with a small book that attempts to outline the complete story of the Radio Gnome Invisible story. It's amusing, but completely incoherant, at least without copious amounts of substances that I don;t keep around the house.
Angel's Egg really is Gong at their peak. Nevermind the story and jump into the band's wild and technicolor cound world.
Gong - Angel's Egg (Radio Gnome Invisible, Pt. 2)