Though its often thought of as the first Gong album proper, its technically the second after Daevid Allen and Gili Smith’s collaboration Magick Brother. But while that laid the stonework for Allen’s psychedelic travels, Camembert Électrique brings the true Pothead Pixies into shape for what would be an eccentric odyssey even by 60’s psych standards. This one stands at the apex of what Gong stood for. There’s a ripple of hard rock that shows Allen, for all his dips into experiment over riff, really did have the power to propel Gong if he wanted to. It has the full on float and free jazz drifts with hippie poetry that would come to fully crystallize on Angel’s Egg. There are two schools on Gong and one might say this is the best entry, the other would probably cite the cosmic float of You. Though they’re really just two sides of the same coin, Camembert Électrique probably captures the picture of Gong’s communal psychedelics more than any other.
There are lots of artifacts from this time period that find themselves in the cringey depths of kitsh after all these years. The effects that seemed so revolutionary tend to wither over time into sad psychedelic birthday card versions of themselves. Not so with Gong. As with Don Van Vliet’s brand of insanity at the helm of the Beefheart, Daevid Allen was also a psychedelic soothsayer and his works touch off the same impulses to wreck the pop paradigm now as they did then. Thankfully this one has been given its proper due and kept among the living with a pretty complete reissue as recent as last year. If this one doesn’t grace your psych pile, then it is high time for a trip to the shop in search of gold. Now I’d lobby for someone to do the same justice for Magic Brother. Its not as hardcore essential, but its undeserving of its scarcity and CD purgatory. Lets hope it finds its way back to vinyl soon.
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