The eternal quest for tonal dominion with Bong - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #201

Nobody seems to know how many studio albums Bong have made. Stoner Rock is their fourth on Ritual Productions, but like the Krautrock and Japrock progenitors, collecting, collating and accounting for the myriad of vinyl, tape, re-releases and side-cuts quickly became almost impossible, and a band with such extended songs, differentiating album from EP becomes merely a semantic point; either of the two tracks from Stoner Rock is longer than the entire Nails discography. Their two previous notable releases, Mana-Yood Sushai and its sequel, Idle Days on the Yann both felt like end points, and still do. Added to that is their latest end point, abandoning Lord Dunsany pre-Lovecraftian horrors and strange lands in favour of a full-fledged jab at all the lazy genre-minded critics who explain the existence of Bong in the frame of ‘stoner rock’. Stoner Rock is their simultaneous entry, definition, critique of and departure from that genre tag. Their goal? Tonal dominion. Their methods? Unchanged; molasses sound and texture.



Photo c/o Robin Hill
‘Stoner rock’ is a term tossed around by reviewers whenever a piece of music can claim some ancestral connection to Sabbath’s own Sweet Leaf. It intertwines at a genre junction between experimental music (another uselessly ambiguous tag) and psychedelia. Just as that Sabbath track was a fusion of their self-created heavy metal principles with the grass-oriented society of the sixties, ‘stoner rock’ is the point where the hippies met the punks and got along (credit Ian Gerber of the Heavy Company for that pithy but astute remark). Bong’s Stoner Rock aims to be both a jab at those who previously classified their music ‘stoner rock’ and a “philosophical redefinition” of the term. Much like Sleep’s epic Dopesmoker, the two tectonic songs reverberate past the seventy minute mark with ease but function as a single omnipresent entity, and they are literally stoner rock, some of the most doped-up drugged-up music, if you’re suffering from a killer hangover it probably sounds like Napalm Death.

What Bong consistently do is create totemistic hagiographies, their work feels like it’s mythologizing itself even as it plays; and Stoner Rock is more a kind of legendary electric hallucinogen, synthesised by Alexander Shulgin in a bathtub, and doled out at a dollar a hit to all manner of peace and love hippies and distortion head bikers already fuzzy on beer. Though they operate in the same headspace as drone maestros like Sunn O))), their music feels much more like it’s on the same path as the relatively poppy OM. Ben Freeth continues to bring unusual instrumentation into the mix, guiding the music with the textured sounds of his Shahi Baaja. Repetition is a key leitmotif, the cyclical moment-to-moment grind as well as the infinite replayability of the soothing heaviness and monolithic sound. The songs feel like ancient tribal rituals whose meaning has been eroded by time, and now are performed only to perpetuate themselves. Bong have never been a majority taste, and as their astral longboat crewed by motley spectral Vikings drifts on through eternity they’ll slowly accrue new ears for listening as nebulous planetary debris slowly collects into a planet.


Written under duress by Steven.

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