Their European contemporaries Hawkwind and Neu! Can and Amon Duul I, the ever-evolving collective that became known as Gong, were not as well-known as their pioneering brand psychedelic space rock with concepts that included aliens and alternate realities. They were also among the first to accept and embrace improvisation in the late ’60s/early ’70s. Gong was so influential that many of its members (or just a few) enjoyed successful careers as leaders of their own projects. These included Gilli Smyth and Steve Hillage, Didier Molherbe, Allan Holdsworth and Pip Pyle. Their trippy music, which was founded in France in 1967 by Daevid Alley (a founding member in Soft Machine), and Smyth, featured humor and Dadaist passages that were drenched with labyrinthine grooves and sophisticated charts. They also had a healthy dose improvisation. Magick Brother, the band’s debut album from 1969, was released by France’s BYG label. It featured vanguard jazz bassist Barre Philips as a guest. 1971’s Camembert Electrique, widely regarded as a classic, reveals the limitless frontiers of their music. Although members of the band changed over the years, including Allen and Smyth, and they had many offshoots, the group seemed to reunite with an impressive array of new collaborators. They were also a source of inspiration for offshoots such as Pierre Moerlin’s Gong and Mother Gong, Planet Gong and Gongmaison. Their Flying Teapot and Angel’s Egg albums were conceptually connected as the “Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy” in 1973 and 1974. All three albums are avant-prog icons. The concept had six albums by 2009, including Shapeshifter (1992), Zero To Infinity (2000) and 2032 (2009). Between 1996 and 2001, the original group reunited on tours. Allen died in 2015, while Smyth passed away a year later. However, Gong continues to be a concern as a quintet. Gong was formed in late ’60s by Daevid Allen, an ex-Soft Machine guitarist, and Gilli Smyth (a singer from Australia) who began making music together with a rotating lineup of musicians. Magick Brother (1969), Mystic Sister (1969), as well as the spontaneous jam session Bananamoon (1971), which featured Robert Wyatt, Gary Wright, Spooky Tooth, Maggie Bell, and more. Frenchman Didier Malherbe (sax, reeds, and Christian Tritsch (bass), along with Allen (glissando, vocals, and vocals), was officially called Gong. In late 1971, Camembert Electrique was released. It also provided the soundtrack for the film Continental Circus, and the music for Obsolete, by French poet Dashiel Hedayat. Camembert Electrique featured the first signs that the band’s mythology was beginning to emerge. It depicted a peaceful Planet Gong populated with Radio Gnomes and Pothead Pixies as well as Octave Doctors. These characters, along with Zero, the Hero, were the main focus of Gong’s three next albums, Radio Gnome Trilogy (1973), Angel’s Egg (74), and You (1975). Zero the Hero, a space traveler from Earth, becomes lost and discovers the Planet Gong. He is then taught the world’s secrets by the gnomes and pixies and sent back to Earth to spread word about the mysterious planet. Each member of the band adopted nicknames: Allen was Bert Camembert, or the Dingo Virgin; Smyth, Malherbe, was Shakti Yani; Malherbe, was Bloomdido Bad de Grasse; Tritsch, the Submarine Captain; and Pyle, the Heap. Tritsch and Pyle both left the band during the three-year period and were replaced by Pierre Moerlen and Mike Howlett (bass). Steve Hillage (guitar), and Tim Blake (synthesizers), joined the band. After You, Allen and Hillage joined the group. They left due to creative differences and fatigue. The band moved into jazz fusion, with Allen Holdsworth joining as guitarist. Hillage and Allen both released solo albums, while Smyth founded Mothergong. The trio reunited to perform a few concerts together, including a 1977 concert in France, which was documented on the superb Gong Est Mort Vive Gong album. Allen also reunited Malherbe, Pyle and other musicians with whom he had worked over the years on 1992’s Shapeshifter album. Hillage was also the ambient-techno alias System 7 There have been many Gong-related bands over the years. These include Mothergong and Gongzilla as well as Pierre Moerlin’s Gong. Planet Gong, Planet Gong and Gongmaison. Gong material was still being released into the new millennium. This included Live 2 Infinitea, which was issued in fall 2000, and many reissues. In 2006, United States of Distribution released I Am Your Egg. The band continued to record and perform in various forms until the release of I See You in 2014. Allen died in March 2015 from cancer in Australia at the age 77. Smyth passed away in 2016 from pulmonary pneumonia. Gong is still a quintet consisting of Fabio Golfetti (lead guitar); Dave Sturt (bass); Ian East (reeds and woodwinds); Kavus Torabi (guitar, vocals; and Cheb Nittles drums). They released Universe Also Collapses in 2019 for K-Scope. All music

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