The Chemistry Experiment - Gongs Played By Voice

by Rob Taylor Rating:8.5 Release Date:2015-01-05

Vaulting in from the 1970s comes Nottingham-based The Chemistry Experiment with a refreshing blast of prog-rock neo-folk indie, if that isn’t too oxymoronic. I wish that, instead of downloading a digital folder of Gongs Played By Voice; crudely compressed and hitherto anonymous bits and bytes, I had been presented with some shiny vinyl, a beautiful gate-fold sleeve of specially toughened cardboard, a ribbon of Japanese advertorial, and a pictorial melange of mischievous goblins and strange beams of light. All this to place myself in approximate time context with Gongs Played By Voice. I would have preferred something more sensorial than MP3s, but alas, all romance and wonder will be consigned to my imagination.

I once took to prog-rock with uncritical zeal. The literary pretensions, the portentous compositions demanding concentration, long and ornery monologues with fellow prog nerds about the inner meaning of such conceptual tropes as Rael’s character from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Truth is, as Stephen Malkmus of Pavement once admitted, lyrics are sometimes no more than preposterous streams of consciousnes, and anyway, as soon as I discovered the altogether more alpha sexuality of punk rock, the illusions of fantasy were as lost as my virginity.

So, you ask, is this a preamble to a dismissive review of Gongs Played By Voice? I cannot recall anyone in 2014 having the balls to borrow from early prog luminaries such as Gabriel-led Genesis, Jethro Tull, Camel etc, and extrapolating their more pastoral sounds by route of modern-day folk stylings (think Trembling Bells) into indie compositions. Little indie gems, more succinct and locked into a tune than early prog.

Gongs Played By Voice is a lot jauntier than any prog music I’ve ever heard, as if the band borrowed the more desirable classical elements of prog (such as the fruity woodwind, the ‘churchy’ organ), and expunged the excessive flourishes, vainglorious literary discursion and prosaic dirges. With all the fat trimmed, and a tighter and less amorphous song structure in place, the newly harvested sound is less obviously the modern-day descendant of concept rock.  

The Chemistry Experiment have successfully made prog-rock groovy again, and I for one don’t mind championing Gongs Played By Voice as one of 2015’s keepers. Maybe something that Prog magazine can justifiably get excited about next issue.

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