Let me assure you, my first impressions weren’t strong. I’m sure you were as wierded out by the name as I was. Anybody would be, as ‘Shpongle’ tends to evoke wet farts of a particularly moist kind. So that’s wrong.
What’s also wrong is the genre name, a pretentious sounding ‘psychedelic downtempo’. See that probably sounds fine to the kind of person to whom bass-line is just another line to be snorted, but to us straight-up folks, ‘psychedelic downtempo’ only makes us want to stay out of the aforementioned company.
My opinion of dance/trance music has always been that its effective, but a bit shit, ‘cause the musicians aren’t really ‘musicians’, ya know? That’s what all of us Rockist fogeys think and have thought for a while. And well, as they say, every stereotype has a grain to truth to it. Electronica musicians strike most people as DJ’s uselessly scratching away at their pointless machines. So, another point down. So in concept, genre and the stereotype tests, Shpongle fails. So all that remains is the album itself. It is all that stands between Shpongle and eternal damnation in rave-party hell.
Does it stack up, then?
As opposed to the doped out caricature, we have this album that- at least in my eyes- goes against the grain. There is a real artistry-type element here. The best part about Shpongle is not the electronica part. In fact, the grooves themselves are pretty stock stuff. Nothing to loosen the bowels there. The spark of genius comes in the inclusion of ethnic elements from everywhere and the kitchen sink.
Strange puking sounds actually sound excellent (“Outer Shpongolia”).One hears chants from all over the place; I heard Arabic/Islamic chants in “Periscopes of Consciousness”, African Chants in “Levitation Nation”, vaguely Desi sounding stuff in the in “Outer Shpongolia”, horn sections on “The Stamen of the Shaman” and god knows what else.
The basslines are the sorts that I really would want to sniff. They drive this stuff. And that just makes it the business for a bass-noob such as me. They aren’t insanely hard or anything, but excellent executions of the sound. Tracks segue into each other, effortlessly melding Spanish guitar, Jazz bass, African chants, Calypso drums and full on electronic-dance beats into an incredibly dense and diverse kind of music. God, this is good!!
I can’t recommend any particular tracks since they all segue into each other, but on arm twisting, I’ll concede to the fantastic “When Shall I Be Free” (which features a rare lyric that is err…repeated endlessly), “Outer Schpongolia” and “Periscopes of Consciousness”. So, Coke snorters, weed smokers, smack addicts. Let me tell you that while I’m not gonna go down your path, I totally get the idea. This sounds very right.
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