Gong – Unending Ascending: Album Review

Gong – forever evolving – keeping the teapot flying.

Release Date: 3rd November 2023

Label: Kscope

Format: CD / digital / vinyl

Eight years on from the physical passing of Gong figurehead Daevid Allen, the contemporary incarnation of Gong, under the stewardship of Kavus Torabi, tootles along very nicely. As they approach a decade in their newest guise new music, both spirit and flesh are in strong and vital shape.

Having scratched the itch in terms of extended psychedelic workouts and winding explorations on The Universe Also Collapses, the focus is strictly on what might first appear as Sixties Beatles-y, Floyd-y bursts. That’s the message on Tiny Galaxies complete with cosmic inflections which might possibly be a red herring…cue My Guitar Is A Spaceship. Can’t wait to hear the ecstatic riff of the homage to the potential of the six-string wonder complete with Ian East blowing up a snaking storm. It’s the riff of the year! Maybe Kavus will pull out his ‘big white guitar’ or the more psychedelic pink Fender – who knows?

It’s the first of a couple of references to the album title and as inspiring a track as anything in the Gong legacy I’ll wager. It evolves into the spacey ambience of Ship Of Ishtar that combines celestial clouds of sound and distant voice – the longest track at eight and a half minutes. There’s a judicious effort to remain concise yet retain the message.

Another tremendous riff bucks and rears at the end of O, Arcturus! The prelude of massed harmonic voices sets it up wonderfully. All Clocks Rest reinforces the signature Gong MO – a quirky and angular riff and another reference to the album title, but we’re back where the guitar riff is king on Choose Your Goddess. The opening burst is another belter – shades even, of The Immigrant Song. The riff resurfaces after going shoulder to shoulder with more things East. He’s been called by some, the sound of Gong, and true, whenever he breaks out, it’s an unmistakable signature.

Vying for attention with the riffs are the cosmic interludes and passages. Along with the Ishtar journey, Lunar Invocation sounds like Lunar Invocation should sound. Kavus heads off in the direction of the vocal exercises he visits in The Utopia Strong. Lulling and gently undulating, it takes a course that suggests an impending dynamic shift that never comes. Instead, the segue into the Asleep Do We Lay finale brings a calming closure to Unending Ascending. Darkness falls on the promised “curious peep through the telescope.” It’s been an invigorating trip. Cos-mic.

My Guitar Is A Spaceship – of course it is…

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