Review Summary: Daevid Allen, he sees you, looking down from Planet Gong.
Daevid Allen's final statement comes in the form of last year's I See You
, but I'll be damned if he's not in another dimension conversing with the Pothead Pixies in a spiritual form. His death may mean he's not on this planet anymore, but what about Planet Gong? Well, I hope he's having a good time wherever he is. So now to the point. I See You
is supposedly the last album under the Gong name, but already taking Allen's place is reportedly one Kavus Torabi, record producer and frontman of psychedelic rock madcaps Knifeworld. This essentially proves that Daevid Allen, even on the doorstep of his death, had faith that Gong would continue for decades more under the guise of Kavus Torabi and the rest of the band. Even as I write this, it's reported that Torabi and co. have gone into the studio to begin work on a 2016 Gong release. Less of that though. I See You
is more about the final songs written by Daevid Allen before his untimely death, and what excellent songs they are.
Indeed, even when he was pushing 80, Daevid Allen could confidently write songs which are as engaging and exhilirating as they are mesmerizing, and the listener, no matter how old they are, will likely love something about it. I See You
eclipses its predecessor in virtually every aspect except one: the length. This album is about 15 minutes shorter than 2032
, and happens to be all the more concise for it. There are several shorter songs ("Occupy", "You See Me") to complement the longer ones ("The Eternal Wheel Spins", "Thank You"), but what really proves to be the centrepiece of the album itself is "When God Shakes Hands with the Devil". With this song, we see a new, more experimental version of Gong, which, funnily enough, could easily be one of Knifeworld's songs had it not been invaded by Gilli Smyth's space whispers and other similarly wispy effects. The song is concrete evidence however that, even at the onset of his death, Daevid Allen could happily sing and play his instruments and laugh at all the younger copycats out there attempting to better his presence in the world. Yes, it's that good. It's simply enjoyable music, and this is reflected throughout the rest of the album, namely songs like "Syllabub" and "Pixielation", which both have a healthy amount of psychedelic flourishes to balance the weird and the wonderful.
Instrumentally, I See You
is just as relevant as any other Gong album with Daevid Allen. Flutes and saxophones are here in spades, and as always played as evocatively and emotionally as you'd expect. Yet there's a little extra to note here: The band's penchant for further experimentation. The album is outstandingly versatile from start to finish. There are folkier tunes to almost sing along to ("Syllabub", "Zion My T-Shirt"), heavier songs utilizing Torabi's smart guitar effects ("Occupy", "When God Shakes Hands with the Devil"), and even a few narrative interludes displaying Allen's poetic nature (the title track and "This Revolution"). What glues it all together though? Simply creativity, and Gong, if anything, have always had this by the bucketload, no matter what incarnation it is. Creativity is the answer to why Daevid Allen could pull the central concept of the Pothead Pixies into the 21st Century and succeed. It's also why Gilli Smyth has been allowed to make numerous guest appearances on Gong albums. And of course, why Kavus Torabi was invited by Daevid Allen himself to come along for the ride, because the Knifeworld frontman is as enigmatic in his own band as he is on I See You
The final 2014 Gong release with Daevid Allen does at times feel like a worthy send-off more than it does another representation of the man's musical talent, the final two extensive songs "Thank You" and "Shakti Yoni and Dingo Virgin" being obvious examples. Yet I See You
is more than the sum of its parts, and is concrete evidence why Gong are both underrated and something of a legacy when it comes to psychedelic and progressive rock. Thank you for leaving us with this final release Mr. Allen, you've done yourself proud yet again.