Updated January 8, 2022
Not readily apparent to many Gong fans, is the availability of the Deluxe Edition 2 CD / 1 DVD-A edition of Gong’s 2016 album “Rejoice, I’m Dead! Featuring the voice of founding member, the late Daevid Allen on two tracks, along with guest appearances from Steve Hillage and Didier Malherbehe. Fans must Rejoice, their 28th album continues their legendary multi-decade psychedelic journey.
Contemporary and classic members unite to produce an undeniably 'Gong sound which steers the music into outer space and the inner ear. The deluxe edition includes a 12" 44 page hardback book, the album on the first CD, plus a bonus CD of extras and the most important element, a DVD-A disc with 24-bit / 96-kHz PCM stereo and DTS 24-bit / 96-kHz5.1 surround mixes.
One may question how many substances they should take to enter the world of Gong. However, listeners will find themselves easily elevated by the music and certainly the dimensional 5.1 mix found on the deluxe edition. Thus, there is no need to risk your health or possible jailtime to obtain pure ecstasy from Rejoice! I am Dead! But who am I to tell you what to do with your body?
No, no, no, I am here to review the high resolution surround sound and stereo audio version of their latest release. Listeners can access the DTS and MLP versions from the Audio setup menu, but the default is the MLP lossless version at startup and selecting Stereo or Surround. I mention this, as I immediately found the MLP version to have an upper mid-range hump which also rolls off the bottom, creating a thin surround experience. When I switched to the DTS 24/96 layer, it was a wonderful aural experience, significantly warmer while still carrying much of the depth heard on the MLP 24/96 layer.
Check out the interplay between the guitar and brass as the second track Rejoice opens, then find yourself immersed with vocals that spread across the entire sound stage as the chorus “Rejoice! I’m Dead!” is sung. As the track breaks into the instrumental section, synths swirl up from the rears and glide across the channels. Drums are spread nicely across the front, take note to the fuzzy guitar with the studio space surrounding it, along with the subtle decay that falls to the back channels. Rejoice is a multi-channel enthusiasts dream come true accolades are in order to mixing engineer Mark Carthra for such a fantastic mix.
Beatrix is as unusual as Gong, and the surround mix is equally unique. The majority of the song only uses the center front channel, finally opening up at the end. Yet, as odd as this surround mix is, it is also so very perfect, fitting with the jazzy elements that throw one back several decades.
I enter the world of Gong for pieces like “The Unspeakable Stands Revealed,” which allows me to journey through a musical adventure. I typically comment about the sound quality of the drums and bass, but there is nothing truly incredible about either of these. Unlike other 5.1 mixes, these instruments are not standouts, rather it is the guitars and synths that capture the essence of excellence. Listeners will easily hear the nuances from synth trills, swooshes, and bubbles. Likewise, ambient echoes of guitars, their chunky clean riffs to fuzz driven sustained notes all penetrate the sound stage with pure audio resilience.
So, when you want to listen to the hi-res stereo versions, an entirely alternate experience awaits you. Not only is the mix flattened down to two speakers, but parts have been placed differently. Just listen to Rejoice where the drums are literally in the center, along with the guitars and brass, which were spread left and right in the 5.1 mix. However, the back channel synth parts really pop as they swell up at the far reaches of the two channels. I initially heard the album on CD only, and felt it was someone sterile, the two channel LPCM version carries much of this, leading me on to the lively surround sound mix. I am convinced that Rejoice! I’m Dead! Is best heard in surround and find this to be a strong release from this veteran band.
To my ears this is a must have for Gong fans, collectors of psychedelic rock, progressive rock enthusiasts, art rock lovers, and the like. Additionally, collectors of multi-channel mixes are likely to want to grab this limited edition, which is available only at a few retail outlets.
UPDATE: A lossless download 5.1 FLAC edition became available on Dec 29, 2021
2 CD / 1 DVD-A with DTS 24/96 5.1 surround and PCM 2.0, also available on vinyl. Now released as a 5.1 FLAC download too.