Anna Minard, our city hall reporter, claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we're forcing her to listen to all the records that music nerds consider important.




What is Gong? I've listened to this album a bunch of times, and I certainly can't tell you. How many people are in the band? Is it even a band? What kind of music is it? What are the lyrics about? NOPE. I get a big zero percent on that quiz, and not for lack of studying.

Here's what happens when you press play: a short track of people talking in weird, mostly unintelligible fake voices over what sounds like a small old-school Disney-style symphony. Maybe there's something strange and computerized in there? But it's hidden; it's the sound of a single star falling or a simple whooshing whisper or a small, neat zipper.

Next track, a British guy shows up, and most of the background is clown instruments, like zany horns and xylophones. An orchestra of cartoon sound effects turned into music. Both these songs are less than two minutes long.

Actually, most of this album sounds like the soundtrack to a crazy cartoon or some other deeply strange movie. The one I'm picturing is 2001: A Space Odyssey, but made by a gang of cartoon British seagulls. And with circuses, way more circuses than in the original. (Why seagulls? I'm not sure. There are bird noises in here somewhere, but mostly it just seems right that this was made by birds.)

Pretty soon, the million-year-long chanting song shows up. ("Master Builder," if you must know.) I don't know if someone's throat-singing or if they're just using a synthesizer, but the effect is one long wooooaaahhhhhwowwowwowoooahh hum. Instruments drift in and out, showing up and leaving—tingly things, a saxophone, lots of drums.

By this point I still have no idea what's going on. This song seems like it's over, then it starts back up. It goes on FOREVER. And it's not even the longest song on the album.

There are three more songs on here that are around 10 minutes long. They are sound factories. They're like story songs with no words or plots. The noises drift around on little frameworks, just the simplest bass line, a little trill of drums, a chant.

Honestly, one of them, "The Isle of Everywhere," sounds like angelic porno music. It's some combo of a wow-wow funk beat and shrieks of delight, and my brain's like "Heyyyyy, wait..." Eventually there is a lot of noodling, one of the worst music verbs. It's okay.

Is there something I'm missing? Yes. Was that deliberate on the part of the musicians? I'm 99 percent sure. Will I be listening to it again for fun? Nope. Did I hate it? Not at all. Best way to play You: Program a robot to surprise-play it at you from corners of your house at random times. It makes the most sense coming out of nowhere and less sense the more I try and understand it.

I give this a "still don't know what's going on" out of 10. recommended