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The Gong Farmers — Guano Junction
(Bandcamp no#, 2021, DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-03-17

Guano Junction Cover art

To start out with, The Gong Farmers is a band with no direct connection to the host of other bands featuring the word “Gong” in their names. It is the duo of Mark Graham and Andrew Keeling, whose roots come from entirely different trees. I’ve been unable to find out much about Mark Graham — he’s credited with keyboards, vocals, and guitar, but I don’t know if he’s been in other bands or released music on his own. Keeling has a much higher profile, being a composer who’s had numerous works performed by ensembles around the world, written several books analyzing the music of King Crimson, and released several albums as leader and in collaborations with David Cross, Robert Fripp, and others. The group’s name was set when the pair visited an Irish castle and learned about medieval “gong farmers,” workers who cleaned the excrement out of latrines and cesspools, also known as “nightmen” because they worked after dark. Given that the title of this, their second album, also refers to excrement, this seems to be an unhealthy obsession, but I can say for sure that their music is not crap. Far from it — this is lovely stuff, mostly delicate and performed on acoustic instruments. Acoustic guitars, flutes, piano, saxophones, violin, and viola figure prominently in the arrangements, with drums and percussion only appearing on a few tracks. There are bits of synthesizer and electric guitar, though these are used sparingly. Graham’s voice is pleasant enough, though sometimes a little shaky, and somewhat resembles that of Tim Bowness. There are hints at 70s movie soundtracks and occasional jazzy flourishes as well, and even some electronic touches. The music is sophisticated, intelligent, and varied, well worth a listen from fans of progressive rock.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): David Jackson, Andrew Keeling, The Gong Farmers

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