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Camembert Electrique

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Album Review

This is a classic, the epitome of the band's early Daevid Allen phase with Ph.P.'s (pothead pixies) in full, blazing glory. In its infancy, Gong was a unique prog rock band that branched out in all directions at once while most other prog bands chose simply one path or another. Camembert Electrique is a testament to that. The band's eclectic "electric cheese" rock is a mixture of psychedelic rock, spacy atmospherics and lyrics, and doses of jazz often presented with a pop sensibility, yet always intense. From the first cut on Camembert, you are transported to planet Gong via the voice of a "radio gnome" who drops in intermittently to remind you you're not in Kansas anymore. Daevid Allen leads the band through several compositions musically (not lyrically) reminiscent of, and possibly influenced by, early King Crimson — a hard, raw-edged sound propelled by a strong guitar-sax-percussion combo. Drummer Pip Pyle played on only a few Gong sessions; he is a major figure here, as is saxophonist Didier Malherbe. Both are up front on the wailing progressive rocker "You Can't Kill Me," which also features guitarist Allen in top form. Allen's declarative "I've Bin Stone Before," the first part of an inventive three-song medley, is of particular interest; introductory church organ and avant-garde sax make this another unique Gong experience. But the real gem on Camembert is "Tropical Fish: Selene." This jazzy composition is the most involving and intricate piece on the recording. The band moves tightly through several progressive movements and Gilli Smyth scores with her trademark "space whispering." Camembert Electrique remains undated after over 40 years and hovers "strong and steamin'" over most of the Gong catalog.

Biography

Formed: 1968

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Gong slowly came together in the late '60s when Australian guitarist Daevid Allen (ex-Soft Machine) began making music with his wife, singer Gilli Smyth, along with a shifting lineup of supporting musicians. Albums from this period include Magick Brother, Mystic Sister (1969) and the impromptu jam session Bananamoon (1971) featuring Robert Wyatt from Soft Machine, Gary Wright from Spooky Tooth, and Maggie Bell. A steady lineup featuring Frenchman Didier Malherbe (sax and reeds), Christian Tritsch...
Full bio
Camembert Electrique, Gong
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