Six Dumb Questions with Bong

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on July 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

bong

The extensive back catalog of UK drone ritualists Bong can be as foggy as the band’s sound itself. Between studio full-lengths, they have a history of EPs, splits, periodic compilations of EPs and splits, and no fewer than 23 live albums that goes back over a decade. Still, they’ve been pretty quiet since issuing We Are, We Were and We Will Have Been in 2015, with just two live recordings that followed. All the more reason to approach their 2018 long-player, Thought and Existence (previously discussed here), with a marked curiosity. What have the trio been up in what one assumes is a bunker deep below the surface of their hometown in Newcastle? From whence does the new album, delivered appropriately through Ritual Productions — with whom the band has worked since 2011’s Beyond Ancient Space (review here) — arrive?

As ever, Bong present more questions than answers. With the lineup of guitarist Mike Vest, bassist/vocalist David Terry and drummer Mike Smith explore a textural range that spreads out across two massive, immersive, compulsive tracks in “The Golden Fields” (17:31) and “Tlön Uqbar Orbis Tertius” (19:01), emitting a slow moving swirl that draws the listener in with its well-honed patience and fluidity. You’re hypnotized. They’re hypnotized. That’s kind of the whole point. Not to say it isn’t expressing a sonic idea, but that idea is to get lost in it. That’s the interaction Bong are seeking with Thought and Existence. It’s a communion between performers, audience and sound. Take that how you will — and some simply won’t — but it’s a journey one refuses to their own detriment.

Having been fortunate enough to see Bong perform most recently at Oslo’s Høstsabbat in 2016 (review here), I can recall vividly (or, you know, vaguely) the fog-drenched drone they brought to life on that stage, with Terry gurgling out his vocal parts as Vest and fill-in drummer Rich Lewis went exploring by oozing forth in any number of directions at once, taking the room through a massive, voluminous plunge into brain-melting tonal resonance. It was astounding to watch, and in the chants of “The Golden Fields” and the far, far-gone “Tlön Uqbar Orbis Tertius,” Thought and Existence captures the same sensibility and feeling of journey. It’s not just a willful slog in the front-to-back listen — actually, at 36 minutes, it’s a quite-manageable single LP, as was their last one; 2014’s Stoner Rock was their last 2LP, sort of — turn it up and it’s a physical manifestation of a near-opaque ethereality. Their methods well set at this stage in their career, Bong continue to explore places that most bands dare not tread and atmospheres from whence many a lesser act simply would not return.

In the relatively brief interview that follows, the band talks about some of the makings, processes and concepts behind Thought and Existence. Since rhythm and flow play so much of a role in what Bong does, I’ve left the Q&A largely untouched, and you’ll find it below only really changed from how it came in in terms of format, putting titles in italics and that kind of thing. The rest is as it showed up to preserve the integrity of it, and I sincerely hope it does just that.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

bong thought and existence

Six Dumb Questions with Bong

What is the interaction between volume and ritual for Bong at this point? Where does one end and the other begin?

Playing live. To create the great sustain live, everything must be cranked. Everything! This is a major part of the ritual. A forced meditation for the audience. Even when we are in the studio, this rule need to be enforced. Textures and tones are really important and can only be achieved through high volume. Capturing that in the studio is a challenge but can be ultimately rewarding.

Why Thought and Existence? What is the album exploring and what do you feel it says about the title ultimately? Is there a conclusion reached through the material?

Exploring metaphysical inner space, the past is a present memory and the possibility that all time has expired. The inward expansive nature of the mind and our senses. The brain is actually part of the external world, it is only through our senses that we can truly see or feel the mind. The title itself is expansive and cannot be summed up, but can be perceived in many different ways.

Tell me about writing “The Golden Fields” and “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” When did you start putting them together and how did they begin to take shape?

“Tlön” was written over time, we played various different versions of this track over the shows we were at early last year. It formed over time, the main riff was then extended and tightened up at practice sessions before we went into the studio. “Golden Fields” was roughly planned, with certain stages. Lining up the vocals with the tempo, gaps in the percussion. All our tracks are formed over time, the more we play, the clearer the arrangement seems to be.

How malleable are Bong songs over time? If I went to a Bong show three years from now and heard “The Golden Fields,” would it be the same as on the album? How set are the movements of a given piece? How do you know when writing a song that it’s done?

The arrangements, if any, will stay the same.

When changes or intensities begin, they are totally improvised.

Lead or layered octave guitar harmonies will drift in and out of any track live. Wenever play the same track exact, however you can still distinguish between which track is actually being played.

Our songs are never finished, as long as we keep playing the song live it will always change. Tracks on our albums are recorded moments, they have no real set parameters.

Take me through the recording process for Thought and Existence. Of course you know what you want out a studio experience at this point, but how did these tracks come together during the recording? What’s most important for you to capture in a studio recording process?

It’s all about the initial live takes in the studio.

We play all together to set the right tempo, we try to use the second or third take of a track as a final version to keep the feel, playing a track over and over in the studio can bleed it dry. However, using the first take as a reference point it can make it easier to create dynamics, place vocals and possible arrangements. We spent a lot of time playing these tracks, so we knew the arrangements. So we allocated a lot of time for experimentation adding bowed cymbals, more stereo guitars and Harmonium/Melodeon drones.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

Thought and Existence is out on May 4th on Ritual Productions We are currently booking shows for Europe and UK right now, so get in touch with us, we want play more shows this year. We [played] London at the end of June. More are being confirmed.
Also thanks to everyone who has picked up an LP/Tape/CD/t-shirt or just came to one of our shows. Means a lot to us. We never thought we would get this far.

Bong, Thought and Existence (2018)

Bong on Thee Facebooks

Ritual Productions website

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Bong Debut Album Trailer for Thought and Existence

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

bong (photo Tom Newell)

When it comes to Newcastle-based psychedelic drone lords Bong, the very, very least you can say about the band is they don’t do anything half-assed when it comes to approaching cosmic sonorities. The often-experimental trio led by guitarist Mike Vest are set to issue their latest full-length, Thought and Existence — not exactly tackling the small issues, philosophically speaking — on May 4 via Ritual Productions, and like its 2015 predecessor, We Are, We Were and We Will Have Been, it’s made up of two expanded-mind drone drifters, unfolding a cosmos in slow motion across its two sides, which seem as ever to work on a wavelength of their won when it comes to tonal and atmospheric proliferation.

That not-doing-anything-half-assed extends to the new trailer premiering today for Thought and Existence, which — where most tease about a vague minute or 50 seconds of bong thought and existencenew material from a band’s record, follows suit with Bong‘s overall methodology and tops five minutes, giving a substantial glimpse at both of the tracks on Thought and Existence, “The Golden Fields” (17:31) and “Tlön Uqbar Orbis Tertius” (19:01). The thing of it? It’s immersive. I mean, you get lost in it. The album, the full thing, is 36 minutes long between the two cuts, but I’ve yet to make it through the trailer that you can see below without feeling totally hypnotized. Even right now as I type this I’ve got the thing on and I feel like I’m clinging to consciousness with all I’ve got.

And there it goes…

Maybe I shouldn’t be so shocked at that — trance-inducing repetition is as much a key component of Bong‘s approach as volume or a darkened, ritualized atmosphere. They use it well throughout Thought and Existence, to be sure, and it’s perhaps in conveying that that the trailer is most effective, though that’s not to mention the visuals themselves included which are slowly manipulated and awesome in their own right. Still, while one so often thinks of Bong working in longer-form contexts as they generally do, it’s telling that they don’t actually need much more than five minutes to melt your brain down and drink it as it pours from your ears.

Behold:

Bong, Thought and Existence album trailer premiere

Bong ‘Thought and Existence’ album trailer edited by Sergio Angot and directed by Cristiane Richardson, featuring ‘The Golden Fields’ and ‘Tlön Uqbar Orbis Tertius’. Out Spring 2018 on Ritual Productions.

The cosmos has now aligned, and with great honour Ritual Productions announce BONG’s return after three years with a new and momentous rite. ‘Thought and Existence’ is their sixth album for Ritual Productions and will be unveiled in its entirety this May 4th.

A continuation of Bong’s metaphysical sounds, ‘Thought and Existence’ will take the listener on a spacious voyage that resonates with the works of the band’s past, yet this offering is especially striking and stunning. A resplendent and imposing craft, comprised of two tracks spanning just under 40 minutes, ‘Thought and Existence’ is remarkable in its ability to move the listener and transcend them to imaginative planes anew.

Bong feel ever so omnipresent on ‘Thought and Existence’, continuing their revered ability to transform time through their sublime sonic textures. As all listeners of this rite will attest, the band’s stellar meditative and mystical drone, amplified by the essential and ritualistic hue of the drums, permits our imagination to be heightened. New realms of perception and existence open up, even if only for the duration of the rite; the power of this listening experience subverting the laws of time and space itself.

BONG is:
Mike Vest – guitars
Mike Smith – drums
David Terry – bass & vocals

Bong’s ‘Thought and Existence’ was recorded and engineered by Mark Wood at The Soundroom, Gateshead during September 2017. The rite was mixed and mastered at XL Recordings Studio, London during December 2017, courtesy of John Foyle (Bobby Womack, Sampha, Damon Albarn) and Adam Richardson (11PARANOIAS, Ramesses, Ancient Lights).

Bong on Thee Facebooks

Ritual Productions website

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Haikai No Ku Releasing Temporary Infinity Jan. 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 5th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

I don’t know if it’s fair to call Haikai No Ku an offshoot of Bong or not, but they take their moniker from a Bong record and Mike Vest plays guitar, so if by some cosmic understanding of the way psychedelic drone works makes you think of Haikai No Ku as something I haven’t eaten enough mushrooms to understand that’s not a Bong offshoot, I apologize in advance for calling them that. What the hell was I talking about?

Right. The record. Haikai No Ku‘s third full-length, the awesomely-titled Temporary Infinity, will be out later this month via Box Records, and if you play your cards right — by which I mean scroll down to under the PR wire info where the YouTube embed is — you can hear the opening track “Saltes of Humane Dust” right now. Have at you:

haikai3

Haikai No Ku – Temporary Infinity (Box Records) 12” Vinyl & Download – 25th January 2016

Box Records is proud to present the third full length album from Newcastle, UK noise-psych power trio Haikai No Ku.

‘Temporary Infinity’ continues the nightmarish bad trips that previous albums ‘Sick On My Journey’ (Burning World Records) and ‘Ultra High Dimensionality’ (Box Records) conjured. The patented Mike Vest (Bong, 11Paranoias, Blown Out) wall of gargantuan mild-altering damaged feedback is again present with the no nonsense power of Sam Booth (Foot Hair) and Jerome Smith (Female Borstal, Charles Dexter Ward).

Haikai No Ku take no prisoners and show no remorse with their latest offering. ‘Temporary Infinity’ is near 40 minutes of warped and disturbed hallucinogenic punishment. Their sound is not for the faint hearted but one that has seen them develop a cult following among those who enjoy their music twisted.

1. Saltes Of Humane Dust (09:56)
2. Temple Factory (06:58)
3. Blind Summit (02:40)
4. In Garden Of Sunken Eclipse (09:42)
5. Sea Of Blood (04:12)

For fans of Bong, Les Rallizes Denude, Mainliner etc. ‘Temporary Infinity’ is pressed on 180g wax with superb artwork and design by Pete Burn, printed on recycled card sleeve with download code.

Mike Vest – Guitar
Jerome Smith – Bass
Sam Booth – Drums

Recorded and Mixed by Mark Wood, The Soundroom, Gateshead
Mastered by Stephen Bishop
Artwork and Layout by Pete Burn

https://www.facebook.com/HaikaiNoKu/
https://arequestforvolume.wordpress.com/haikai-no-ku/
www.box-records.com

Haikai No Ku, “Saltes of Humane Dust” from Temporary Infinity

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audiObelisk EXCLUSIVE: Bong’s “Dreams of Mana-Yood-Sushai” Now Available for Streaming

Posted in audiObelisk on May 8th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Bong‘s is a swirling cosmic atmosphere of psychedelic exploration and ritualistic drone. Among the countless live albums, splits, EPs and other limited releases, each time they coalesce in the form of a full-length, it’s more of an event than an album, and the fourth and latest, Mana-Yood-Sushai (out May 14 through Ritual Productions) is the grandest yet. Taking the Newcastle four-piece’s methods of crafting huge, expansive works of riff hypnosis and coupling them with a genuine studio production at the hands of Greg Chandler of Esoteric, the latest outing gives Bong a shape without limiting their movement into, through and around it.

It’s heady shit, in other words — and I absolutely mean that as a compliment. Comprised of just two tracks, Mana-Yood-Sushai is at once complex and minimalistic, its psych wash and chants dense, and there are times listening to the 27 minutes of “Dreams of Mana-Yood-Sushai” when you feel like there’s no path out of it, like Bong have locked you in the temple and the only option you have left is to join them in their worship. Doom by way of Stockholm Syndrome? Maybe, but it’s glorious, either way.

And yet there’s something blissful in “Dreams of Mana-Yood-Sushai” by the end of it, the gradual evolution of the guitar line leading to a sort of melodic hum underlying the weight of the ambience. Bong‘s prior LP outing, Beyond Ancient Space (review here), was nearly 80 minutes long, and at just over 46, Mana-Yood-Sushai isn’t so much a change in methodology as it is a charted course into the band’s peculiar and impeccably constructed tonal abyss.

I’m fortunate enough today to be able to stream “Dreams of Mana-Yood-Sushai” in its 27-minute entirety. Please find the track on the player below, followed by some info from the label, and enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Psyched-out, marvelously prolific doomlords Bong have returned once again from the outer limits of doom, drone, and Eastern melody to grace and glorify the riff upon their latest offering, a brand new album, Mana-Yood-Sushai. The album will be released on May 14 by England’s Ritual Productions, longtime supporters and purveyors of the doomed. The ethereal cover artwork is an image of a Nicolas Roerich painting titled “Mount of Five Treasures.”

Following last year’s masterpiece Beyond Ancient Space, this two-horned behemoth was recorded, mixed and mastered in just two days in December 2011, marking the first time Bong have ever entered a professional studio and recorded with an engineer. The esoteric outfit previously preferred to record live, and in shed, and in fields, and wherever the riff saw fit to lead them. 

At the helm was Greg Chandler of Esoteric, who had this to say about the experience: “It was really great to record an album live in the studio with Bong, whose heavy, droning, psychedelic improvisations unfolded like a lucid, transcendental journey. Great vibe to the session with these guys, and a real pleasure to work with. I really enjoyed the session, was cool to work with a band that can just get in and do their thing with a completely no nonsense approach!”

Bassist/vocalist Dave Terry commented, “Two tracks emerged from our battles with the unfamiliar disconnectedness of studio recording, inspired in turn by the stories of Lord Dunsany and the meandering psychedelic rock of Träd Gräs och Stenar. We hope you enjoy listening to them as much as we enjoy playing them.”

For more on Bong or to pre-order Mana-Yood-Sushai, hit up the Ritual Productions website.

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