Review: Bong – Beyond Ancient Space

It’s refreshing to hear a record so insistent on preserving a raw, collaborative energy in its production. Beyond Ancient Space was recorded with no overdubs and with minimal editing thereafter; any resultant lack of clarity is generously compensated by the life and immediacy retained within the band’s monotonous, slow motion jams. Despite everything being centrally panned, Bong’s concentrated jet of sludge proves to be incredibly immersive at times, melting the band into a single entity that’s rich in an unspoken, almost spiritual, musical interplay.

Each of these three pieces is most impressive during its first 10 minutes – guitar surges out as a continuous drone, providing unwavering anchorage on which Bong forge their ultra-heavy, doom psychedelia. There’s a definite sense of purpose and progress to their music in these early stages, as the band embark on a steady, trudging march that takes them beyond a rehearsal room jam and starts to disconnect them from reality and consciousness.

But then the music seems to lose sight of its destination. The band begin to sound awkward and all too self-aware, squeezing the life out of their jams until they’re left toying with a hollow carcass for the final five minutes. Bong veer off of their path to enlightenment and stagger into an empty wilderness, bringing a sense of futility to the promise and sincerity of the band’s deceptively bold first steps – the improvisation over the top begins to drift in tentative circles, drums flit arbitrarily between beats and tempos, and the listener is left with the crushing realization that, although Bong intend to venture  “beyond ancient space”, the album isn’t actually going anywhere.