ELECTRONICA / Shpongle

Tales of the Inexpressible – SHPONGLE – 2001


D’you know why Shpongle were such a big, warm and pleasant surprise to me? I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for months and failed everytime. But now, I have an answer. It’s ’cause they mix the analog and the digital in a way that sounds like they can actually play all the instruments. There are genuine riffs going on here. Or really catchy world-music rhythms. Or swoopy basslines.

That’s the first reason. Now I’m discovering my second reason. It’s the amount they can take a single theme and develop it and morph it to its best possible place. Its a journey, listening to more and more layers pile-up and diminish and Shpongle treat the basic theme-be it a ground bassline or a percussion rhythm-like putty. Sample the first track “Dorset Perception”. It epitomises what I love about Shpongle and just described.

So that’s a good start. But does the rest of the album live up to this great start?

What was that you were sniffing in the bathroom again, Mr.Shpongle?

Fortunately, yes. It’s a mind expanding thing to listen to, this music. Partly because you’re expected to be trippin’ anyway when you listen to it, and partly ’cause its so ­diverse. Portuguese lyrics, Indian flutes, Spanish guitar, jazzy bass and what not……Actually, its mostly mind-expanding because you’re expected to be trippin’ (*snide smile*) you BRAINS out.  Lemme quote some of the lyrics from the excellent “A new way to say hooray”:

This is what you see.

‘The walls, such they be, are crawling with geometric hallucinations.
Very brightly coloured, very iridescent. Deep sheens and very highly reflective surfaces
everything is machine-like and polished and throbbing with energy but that is not what immediately arrests my attention.’

Uh. Right. What was that you were sniffing at in the bathroom again, Mr.Shpongle?

Jokes aside, all rockists (myself included) should listen and draw from this stuff. I do think us rock fans have become too closeted and incestuous in our influences. Dang, here is some fresh fodder for you to chew on!!! This being electronic however, the primary emphasis is on the beats. And they vary from frenetic to stomping and actually kind of natural and headbangy sounding, like on “Room 23”. But the little shits can still surprise me again and again. The mad as Megan Fox “My Head Feels Like A Frisbee” is aptly named, because of the totally unexpected transition from the Michael Jackson-pop-stomp of the first half to the Samba-Waltz loveliness of the middle and ending sections.

Ok, enough gushing. This sounds right.

-El Bajista

More SHPONGLE reviews HERE.

More ELECTRONICA reviews HERE.

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