Writing about drone in many ways defeats the object, it undermines the genre’s primary purpose which is to send the listener into a trance-like state, devoid of thought. Anyone who knows of Bong know that they are the absolute masters of tripped out, ego-obliterating doom drone; experiencing one of their live performances you tend to stop thinking of them as a bunch of guys on a stage contributing individual elements to the musical stew but as one ancient entity entrancing captive audiences into a religious fugue state. The effects of marijuana occupying the air in such small confines probably helps to facilitate this phenomenon too but they are, nonetheless, a commanding live band.
Bong have now stepped forth from whatever haze has kept them relatively quiet since last years Beyond Ancient Space, probably a little dazed and confused, with their new album Mana-Yood-Sushai – two tracks of their characteristic one-chord raga drone, each track averaging about 23 minutes.
Inspired by Lord Dunsany’s “The Gods of Pegana” (thanks Wikipedia) ‘Dreams of Mana-Yood-Sushai’ builds a slow groove atop the constant drone of guitar feedback and sitar strums and flourishes while the mantra “Mana Yood Sushai” is chanted over and over. The song is tense, unnerving, a pagan celebration of little-known (or in this case fictional) gods and slowly hauls you into its swirling cacophony and before long you’re converted.
‘Trees Grass and Stones’, while more contemplative and slightly less ominous than the previous track, is no hippy stroll by the river as the song title may have you believe. Far from it, the song evokes a feeling of impending doom with the almost motorik rhythm and a nauseating bending root note that continues for the whole nineteen minute duration of the song.
I suspect that unless you’re witnessing the band’s hypnotic live show then your appreciation of Bong’s recorded work could easily depend on your state of inebriation and choice of intoxicant. On some listens I longed for my stoner days, on others I found the whole affair self-indulgent but I generally just allowed myself to get carried away on Bong’s current of low-frequency waves and acrid smoke. Mana-Yood-Sushai is by no means a revolutionary record but it does an excellent job of taking you to another dimension of consciousness for better or worse. Bong’s name doubles up as a primitive set of instructions – take a hit and you’re in for one hell of a trip.
Scribed by: Tom McKibbin