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(61 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Flying High 5:49 2. Airway to Seven 4:37 3. Pentanine-I 3:28 4. Au Chalet 4:04 5. Trip a la Mode 4:49 6. Reminiscence 6:46 7. Interlude 0:40 8. Classique 7:12 9. Lacheur 6:11 10. Bleu Nuit 3:54 11. Pentanine-II 2:11 12. Montagnes Russes 7:04 13. Troyka 4:33 LINEUP: Pierre Moerlen - drums, vibraphones, percussion Meehail Ogorodov - keyboards; recorder; congas Arkady Kuznetsov - electric guitar Alexei Pleschunov - bass
Prolusion. Recorded in Moscow with Russian musicians at the beginning of 2005, "Pentanine" is the last release by the famous French composer, drummer and vibraphonist, Pierre MOERLEN (sadly he also passed away last year, at the age of only 53). However, I never separated David Allen-related GONG creations from those with Pierre as the leader. Furthermore, I only love "You" from the Allen era. Well, I've heard most of Gong's albums, and my rating on those can be seen here.
Analysis. "Pentanine" is comprised of thirteen instrumental pieces. Pierre composed all but the 'boundary' tracks, Flying High and Troyka (which means Three Horses in Harness in Russian), both being credited to Meehail Ogorodov. The guy is a very skilful keyboardist and gifted arranger, but he also has a bent for meditations in slowly droning spacey passages and effects, this passion revealing itself on several tracks, but only as a brief finale, save for the opening number Flying High, which is terribly monotonous synthesizer space music throughout. Bad intro. Too long and obviously overextended, as well. Makeweight is the word. The Russian musicians' contribution to the material is highly appreciable, but I sincerely regret Pierre allowed Meehail to include Flying High in the CD and moreover, place it at the start. Without it the 61-minute "Pentanine" would have lost 6 minutes of its running time, but it would have found the status of a complete masterwork instead, which, I believe, would've been much more than a merely advantageous exchange. Pity, because the album as such is almost unbelievably good. Those well acquainted with Gong in general will immediately notice how favorably this recording differs from most, if not all, of the band's albums that appeared after the happy '70s. In fact, I perceived "Pentanine" to be Gong's best and most inspired album since "Espresso II". The songwriting style is immanently Pierre's, but the sound is fantastically fresh and unique, almost without direct comparison with that of any of the band's previous output. Amazingly, the remaining twelve compositions are as if offering to divide themselves into three categories, with an equal number of tracks in each. Airway to Seven, Lacheur, Bleu Nuit and Montagnes Russes are dynamic Jazz-Fusion, though the amount of genuine improvisation is little. As almost everywhere on the CD, the instrumental palette features very animated vibraphones, swirling pianos and Moog, edgy guitar, direct and slapped bass lines, all supported by an excellent drum base. Trip a la Mode, Reminiscence, Au Chalet and Classique, all located at the album's core, don't feature improvisation at all, the music elegantly sliding between quasi Jazz-Fusion and Space Rock with distinct symphonic tendencies - though the latter two are not devoid of some harsh textures, in addition. While not overtly complicated, each of these is filled with genuine magic - that very matter, which drove me nearly mad at the time of my youth, when I was for the first time absorbed in the sea of classic '70s masterworks. Although rather short, both parts of the title track, Troyka and Interlude (though above all the former three) are worthy of the same epithets. Filled with wonderful, both mysterious and highly comfortable atmosphere and mesmerizing melodies, each is very beautiful symphonic Space Rock with a touch of Space Fusion. By taking the material's stylistic aspects as a whole, it is necessary to mention that "Pentanine" avoids traditional Space Rock and Jazz-Fusion idioms, even those the Gongs:-) were discovering and using themselves - only to change them practically from album to album.
Conclusion. One of the most many-sided bands ever, Gong didn't betray their good tradition of routinely changing their style this time out too, and "Penthanine" emerges as one of the most unique and, simultaneously, most distinctive of their works. Save for the first track, no makeweights here (unlike "Shapeshifter" for instance, not to mention the two outings that came out in the second half of the '80s). With "Penthanine" Pierre has set up a majestic monument to himself, God rest his soul! Wholeheartedly recommended to everyone respecting a Prog lover in himself (will manage without a smile here). Top-20-2005
VM: February 25, 2006
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