This review of Music from the Other Side of the Room is a special dedication of the space whisperer, poet, singer, co-founder of Gong, and simply known as Shakti Yoni herself, Gilli Smyth. She passed away on August 22nd of this year at the age of 83. This year, Esoteric Recordings have reissued her first solo album released in 1978 entitled Mother.
Gilli left Gong in 1974, she co-founded with Daevid Allen at the end of 1967, as she was getting ready to start a family and prepare to spend time with her children including their preparation of the birth of their second son, Orlando Monday Allen. While she toured with the band and deep into pregnancy and returned during the summer of that year to record their fifth album and the third in the final chapter of the Radio Gnome trilogy, You. It came time for her to focus on being a mother than going on the road with Gong.
She had this clear vision of how her debut solo album should sound and with Daevid’s original mixing notes of how it should be sound which is evidential in the 16-page booklet, his technical and mixing ideas were right on target for Gilli’s vision of what the album is supposed to be sound. It is an amazing, atmospheric, whimsical, avant-garde, and spacey twist with Gilli’s vision of the spiritual and feminist political touches which goes straight back to the beginning of Gong’s second studio album, Camembert Electrique in 1971 during the sessions at the Chateau d'Herouville.
The 3/4 waltzy jazz-space rock featuring the fuzzy sound of Didier Malherbe’s Sax goes into the ultimate trip of a lifetime of whispering vocals from Gilli through echoing effects and walking bass line and Allen vocalizations shown through on Shakti Yoni. The emotional opener, I Am a Fool features Vera Blum’s violin riding into the solar system as Gilli takes her spoken-word poetic reminiscent's of Allen Ginsberg into toe.
It segues with a phone conversation from various people of who they are, and the voice of Orlando’s babbling comes into place as it segues of a surrealistic voyage of who they are and they head Back into the Womb. The down-home acoustic folky bluesy acoustic guitars from Pepe Milan and Joan Bibiloni, hears the people of sound effects with a political structure on Next Time Ragtime while the jazz-rock ambient meditation takes a leap into some tense moments as it builds up before ending with Taliesin Allen chanting “Liar, Liar Pants on Fire” five times as it fades off.
The usage of an onomatopoeia is evidential on the essences of a ticking clock in the style of a metronome and ominous effects between the wind instruments, bass, drums, and guitar creates this moody nightmarish technique. And then Didier himself, in the last minute of the composition, just hammers it down to create the tightness as it ascends as Gilli and the band close it off with a haunting finale on Time of the Goddess.
The Acid Avant-Folk closer with narrations of a story that she adapted from the Mabinogion which were compiled in the 12th and 13th century entitled, Taliesin, is not for the faint of the heart for bedtime stories to read to your children. It is one of the most chilling compositions but Gilli and the vocal arrangements done by Anna Camp, has touches of Gong and Medieval musical twists.
Mother is not an easy album to listen to. But it is a touching, stirring, and powerful albums I’ve listened to. Alongside the original mixing notes of Daevid’s instructions of the album’s mix, it includes photos of Gilli herself and liner notes done by Gong expert, Jonny Greene. I nearly cried throughout the entire album, not just the loss of Gilli, but how she took the ideas and made it a mind-blowing adventure into a creative wonder. And the abilities on here, it’s a wonder. And a must have for any Gong fan.