Gong - Zero to infinity - 2000


If you ask someone about the three most important Canterbury progressive rock bands, the answer will surely be Caravan, Soft Machine and Gong, three bands whose paths have met over and over for years. Gong is one of those paradigmatic sorts of groups that have created a style of their own, the space fusion, through such important and renowned albums like the powerful and psychedelic "Camembert Electrique", the progressive-psychedelic-jazzy "Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy" that consists of "The Flying Teapot", "Angel’s Egg" and "You", and even the Eastern-ethnic influenced album "Shamal". The band’s line up has included only great musicians through the years, from its Martian leader Daevid Allen and singer Gilli Smyth to guitarist Steve Hillage, drummers Pierre Moerlen and Pip Pyle and keyboardist Tim Blake. The list of their parallel projects is also huge and complex, but to mention just a few of them noticeable for their quality and fame, we can name Mother Gong, New York Gong and Pierre Moerlen’s Gong.


The nineties saw the group’s reincarnation. Several compilations, live albums and collections of odds and rarities have been published since. They have also produced two studio records, 1992’s "Shapeshifter" and the now mentioned "Zero to Infinity". The band that took part on the recording includes some of its classic members: great master Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth, Mike Howlett and Didier Malherbe, who were joined by sax wizard Theo Travis and former Soul II Soul drummer Chris Taylor.

On "Zero to Infinity" you can hear a revitalized Gong that hasn’t lost the nature of their classic sound and that doesn’t constitute a copy of their previous works. The eleven pieces included on this album are a new chapter of Zero the Hero’s story and well… this time Daevid Allen has exaggerated a little bit with his Gong Mythology. He now introduces a main character (who died on the previous chapter) now free from his human body and that comes to life as a spiritual entity. Well… from a material Zero, he created an ethereal and then a cybernetic one ("Zeroid"). By the way, the lyrics are still as original as on the classic trilogy and they involve all the characters with the characteristic sense of humor.

The music has relics of all the group’s periods: the psychedelic jazz rock of "Camembert Electrique" on some parts of "The Invisible Temple" and "Yoni", the ethnic style of "Shamal" on "Magdalene" and the hilarious jazz-rock of "Angel’s Egg" and "The Flying Teapot" through "Bodilingus". An important point is that, even if the jazzy style is featured all over the album, this time it isn’t really in a fusion way but a more traditional cool jazz one (a classic style, not to be confused with Kenny G’s music for hotel lobbies). Maybe it is because drummer Piere Moerlen, who led the group on that path, is not present this time. The pieces included on "Zero to Infinity" follow a logical sequence that creates a whole mood for the following part: from the Arab-like ethnic sections to classic jazz, from rock to Sri Cappuccino Longfellow’s humor (Allen’s) and from the excellent sax solos of Malherbe and Travis to Gail’s Space Whisper. The energy that Gong showed on stage during the last tours is now present on this great record, a production that, without being inferior to the earlier ones, is indeed a worthy heir to them. Just one critic to the only part that doesn’t fit in with the rest: Why including a jazz-rap section on "The Mad Monk"? the musical background is brilliant, it’s a pity it includes that Bronx-like vocal part.


In conclusion, it is a good record by one of the most innovative groups in progressive rock history whose fans are going to enjoy. In a certain way, it is also one of the band’s most "normal" productions because the experimental parts from the earlier periods have been significantly shortened, but the composition and production are really good and it has the interest and quality of the classic band’s good records. Listen to it, you will like it.

author - date - rating - label

Enrique Gómez - May 2000 -   - Snapper Music