Bong: "Live At Roadburn 2010" music review


It wasn't so long ago, that UK heavies Bong were just an amusingly-named band that counted an Aquarius Records customer as a member. It took a while, but eventually we got 'em to send us some records (you can imagine, a band named Bong isn't the most businesslike and efficient bunch, nice folks though they are). And their brand of stoned, psychedelic, Eastern-tinged doomdrone improv proved to be right up our alley, and appropriate to their moniker.

Now, a couple years later, we've sold many, many Bong lps, cds, and cd-rs – and one of us here even got to see 'em live, at the amazing Roadburn festival in Holland. And even though they're not the sort of band to move around much on stage, they weren't boring. In fact, they were TERRIFIC. (Above is footage from their show at this year's Roadburn.) And now, Bong's 2010 performance has been released on Roadburn's in-house label as "Bong: Live At Roadburn 2010"

After some enthused hails from the crowd, the first of two loooooong tracks ("Onwards To Perdonaris", 33:24) starts up, or seeps in, eerie and airy and understated, quite lovely really, not at all heavy, but nicely hypnotic…until a few minutes in when one may be rudely startled (depending on how high you have your volume set) by some deep voiced declamations, dunno what the fellow is on about, but that's ok, 'cause it serves to alert you that right about NOW the band is really gonna get LOUD, everything stepping up a big notch, to accommodate a constant drone backing, yeah now it's heavy, but still keeping the hypnotic lovely thing going too, slow rhythmic pulsations punctuated by an exotic zing of the strings (that's the "Shahi Baaja", an electrified Indian zither / drone harp with typewriter keys that one of the Bong-sters plays), once in a while joined again by more near-throat singing… It's rolling, rumbling, atmospheric, Eastern, with something of the quality of a cult ceremony or religious rite, in part due to the those occasional low monkish vocals. At times, "Onwards…" drifts back down into lulling stretches of spacey warbling electronic FX, and hippy-kraut hand drumming, coming across like a sinister Siloah or doomy Amon Duul. Or imagine the Master Musicians Of Bukkake making an ambient album for Miasmah, maybe.

The equally epic second track, "Wizards Of Krull" (previously recorded for the first side of their self-titled lp debut in 2009), continues in this vein, with more powerful percussion, though. It's 24 minutes of ritualistically pounding drums and crashing cymbals, low drone from bass and voice both, gobs of distortion and spooky psychedelic effects, those Shahi Baaja note clusters chiming in with regularity. "Wizards…" gets (slowly) more and more intense as it goes, really ramping up towards the end with rhythmic urgency. Damn this is good!

Bong bring it, all right, quite recommended, definitely for fans of Om, SUNNO))), Grails, Sylvester Anfang… and of course Bong. And bongs! Most if not all Bong releases thus far have been live, and this one is much less of a lo-fi recording than some of those, making for an essential document of Bong's unique trance-inducing potency.

Bong: Live At Roadburn 2010 LP