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Hear the Gongs sound in an mp3 clip.

The Gongs is a group of four: Pete, Clara, Grisha, and Stefan. They play their music on several "homemade" instruments, made from wood, steel, strings, electronics, plastic reeds... You can hear more of these instruments and get news on their website.

Their first album "Rob Reich" will be coming out this summer on Momus's label, American Patchwork. Also this summer, they will be touring with the label (including Momus, The Super Madrigal Brothers, Phiiliip, and Rroland), at stops around the country.

The Gongs on themselves

We formed in early September of 2001. We started off playing musical games using a trio of three lutes called "guys" and recorded the singles "you think i'm a terris", and "i smell..." When we found our first set of steel gongs near the train tracks, they taught us how to imitate the sounds that animals hear, as can be heard in "the bat", and "an old man talks to his dog". Now we always play with our set of amplified gongs.

Originally, we were a threesome, Pete, Clara, and Stefan. When he heard us one night, Grisha became attracted to the sound of the gongs' microtones and drones, which he describes in "Evergreens [in Darkest Night]". He became the Gongs' fourth member, playing reeds (a retuned harmonium) and chucky (a super-long electric sliding stringed instrument). He discovered some splendid new techniques for playing the Chucky, such as "creating a cast relationship w/ the stratosphere", and others you can hear on our website.

From the beginning, we had been in contact with "th' Man w/ the Red Steam"; we sang a few songs about him and soon realized we needed a better tool to communicate with. In January, we built this out of a collection of electronic rhythm circuits. Ever since then "th'Man w/the Red Steam" (or more correctly, "th'monument to th'Man with the Red Steam") has been helping to complete our sound.

Back in October, (hal'ween to be exact) the gongs made first contact with artist/composer/producer/???, Momus, and began work on a cd for release on his label American Patchwork. We also just finished a little 45 rpm record, with 2-step, 5-step, and 7-step dances on it. Both the cd and the record will be with us on tour this summer, so come check us out.

The Gongs (440)-574-9594

Momus on The Gongs

October 2001. I'm on tour with Stereo Total. Our punishing schedule provides just one free day. The tour-planning gods in their wisdom have ordained that our holiday should fall on Halloween, in Cleveland. I propose to Brezel, Francoise and Lee, our tour manager, that we take a little trip to Oberlin, an hour's drive along the lakeshore, to visit the legendary liberal arts college. They're game, so off we go.

Within minutes of our arrival in the charming little country town we see a poster for a show by The Gongs. It's a layout diagram, drawn and lettered in a spidery hand, a sort of ethnographic fig. 1 showing the connections between 'viteo, speeker electronich, log, gong, ssyinthischzizer' and 'stringed inst'. 'Electronic music concert, Wilder Main, Wed. 8pm', it says. That's tonight.

After horsing around too long at a Holiday Inn, we arrive at the campus late and ask some students the way to Wilder Main. 'Oh, you're going to Peter's thing?' It's straight ahead, a faded wooden-floored hall. We take our places cross-legged on the floor.

It's immediately clear we've stepped into another world, a happening stranger, quieter, more private, sensitive and absurdly folky than our own rambunctious, rabble-rousing shows.

At the left there's the 'viteo screen': people larking about in a room. Low on the stage, behind a defensive screen of glassy window panes, playing very quietly and with fascinating intensity, sit The Gongs. A girl wearing a sort of pink and white bunny costume wanders about issuing imperious instructions. Two boys sit on the floor, playing arcane stringed and electronic instruments: chucky, banjo, several 'guys' (homemade miniature guitars) and a modular analogue synthesizer. From the ceiling hangs a log, from which are suspended gongs of varying sizes. From time to time these are struck, lending an eerie, earnest, oriental flavour to the proceedings. At the end of the show the group members climb slowly, ceremonially, one by one, into hollow boxes to be wheeled off into the wings by the bunny dominatrix.

The music is as original as the presentation. There's singing and guitar playing, but it's far from any sort of recognisable indie sound. Just when you think you catch the odd whiff of the weirder experiments of Low and Pavement, or lyrics like early Devo or Wire, it turns into Harry Partch singing the lyrics of Li Po to the microtonal accompaniment of his own hand-built instruments, or the lapidary alpine glockenspiel sounds of Webern's 'Five Pieces For Orchestra'.

It's hard to imagine that people as young as The Gongs have already staked out such idiosyncratic musical terrain for themselves. It took me ten years of 'optimising my profile' (trying to be mainstream) before I dared to 'optimise my marginality' (realising it was a lot more fun just being damned weird).

As always when smitten, I feel a weird combination of utter freshness and deja vu. The Gongs are the group I knew must exist somewhere. I dreamed of them in my essay 'The Invisible Opera Company of Tibet', a title borrowed from Daevid Allen of the original Gong. I predicted their style in my song 'Tape Recorder Man' when I made the Dylan figure sing to the Alan Lomax character: 'Tape recorder man, this I won't forget, this is folk musique concrete!' And yet this is the group I never expected to find in real life, least of all on Halloween in a small town in Ohio.

At the end I introduce the Oberliners to my friends the Berliners and we exchange e mail addresses. Up close, these electronic music majors seem tight-knit and impossibly fresh-faced. They're called Clara, Peter, Stefan and Grisha. They must all be about 21.

In time they will send me their CD and I will realise that I have one clear duty -- to release this record if it's the last thing I do.

Extracted from the essay 'My Muse Has The Right To Children', Momus website, April 2002

The Gongs
Rob Reich
The debut CD on American Patchwork Records
AmPatch 004
Made and distributed by Darla
Released June 20th 2002

Buy 'Rob Reich' direct from Darla by heading over, credit card at the ready, to the Darla online shop.

Find out when and where The Gongs are playing near you on the American Patchwork Tour Page.

Read about Super Madrigal Brothers here.
Read about Phiiliip here.
Read about Rroland here.
Get photos of Momus here.