In 2005 the long awaited album from Gilli Smyth SF based band was released. Originaly the band was supposed to be called Gong Matrix and the title was to be It just Is. But as things turned out the band name is now Gong Matrices launching their debut album Parade. It has a great cover by artist Elson Standlee who was a part of the very first (undocumented) Gong band.
The band has its roots in 1999 where Gilli jammed with some local musicians from San Francisco. Apart from Gilli’s unique voice and lyrics, it features Pierce McDowell (bass, multi-instrumentalist, composer), James Rotondi (guitar), Aryeh Frankfurter (violin, overtone flute) and Stephen Junca (percussion). The album can be seen as a continuation of various Mother Gong activities and yet as something very unique. A little pearl in the enormous Gong discography.
It is difficult to predict from which tradition the odd art of Gilli origins, but while her work with the Gong band perhaps more was/is adding a color to the musical picture her solo work perhaps can more be seen as a parallel to the tradition of jazz & poetry. The great issue or task of jazz & poetry has always been if the music and the words would mix. This time Gilli focus on her voice & words and no much to the infamous “spacewhisper” and it is pleasure to notice that music and spoken voice almost perfectly blend.
The album to some degree draws on the tradition of drooning beats & weird sounds that is a integral part of Gong and yet the album is more simple “down-to-earth” and does not look like anything else. Compared to almost anything else with Gilli in the spotlight she is much more in focus with no other "solo-voices" in the picture. The whole album is unusual organic. To call the musical mastermind Pierce McDowell a genius is no exaggeration when judging from this album.
The music starts with a dreamy “Welcome To The Parade” that drifts into “Annunki”. Very relaxed non-electronic playing & unusual pleasant. This however does not continue on “Demon Barbie and Super Computer Matrix”. Funky bass, wah-wah rhytm guitar & “processed” voice which however become “normal” someway within the tune & before we know the “high-energy music” disappear in a hole & we flow in deep space guided by Gillis voice & vibrating instruments & electronic sounds. Slowly the rhythm starts again but not to return to the starting point. No normal song structure here.
The more spooky dreamy sequences continue with the next tune “Seas”. Different slow dwelling sounds weave in the background as Gilli recites her beautiful poem with some small use of her space whisper technique. The music/sounds & lyrics seem to blend complete. This tunes leaves one relaxed almost sleeping which only last only to the marching drums & shrilling sounds starts up the “Battlefield” tune which (just like the opening tune) is a two-folded “medley” that drifts into “That’s allright George” which of course is directly succeeded by nothing more than “Email from The Most High” , who - according to Gilli – is getting rather disappointed these days. The music is bell-sounding noises. Mentally we are floating with the stars in the sky.
This continues with “The Drivers Seat” – no stated rhythm, just sounds accompanying Gilli’s voice which soon becomes space whisper that weaves behind the sounds. A most amazing tune which effect seems very “psychedelic” understood in it’s true sense. Slowly the next tune starts up with drums/congas, “romantic” violin while Gilli necking voice recites “Virtual Lover” – mildly ironic, I think. Only to be followed by the outro “Mystery” that is yet another tune floating free without any stated rhythm behind.
A journey has ended. These days Gong performances seems more rare than ever. Still there is so many releases of new and archive material. Anyone with marginal interest for Gong should not feel tempted to overlook this little pearl. It is a major work from a major artist and one can only hope that resources can be collected to do a opus 2 from Gong Matrices.