The Psychedelic Music of Shpongle

Shpongle are a British based electronic ambient band that features the duo of trance music pioneer Simon Posford and DJ,Producer Raja Ram. The group also makes use of the input of external musicians to provide accompanying sounds. Their music is best described as psychedelic ambient and is often grouped into niche electronic music genres such as psychill, psybient and psyamb. where to buy lsd

In The Begining

Simon Posford’s musical career began as a teenager, when he had the choice of either going to Oxford to study botany, or going to work at Virgin recording studios. The decision to go to Virgin was a no brainer, especially as it provided the chance to learn the ropes alongside such luminaries as Spike Stent. For a while, Simon moved round the various Virgin studios but the life of making tea and dealing with fevered egos couldn’t go on indefinitely. Things came to a head with the UK indies band James, who had recently finished touring but were still in tour mentality. Posford found the experience a nightmare and began to look elsewhere for work.

Stent suggested to Simon that he should contact Martin Glover at Butterfly Studios. It was here that Simon found the freedom to work on his own ideas. He quickly produced a series of groundbreaking goa trance singles culminating in the now classic album “Twisted” under his trance moniker “Hallucinogen”. At this time Raja Ram had been involved in a group called the “Infinity Project” which Simon also worked on from time to time. In many ways the Infinity Project sound paved the way for what would later evolve into Shpongle. One day, while watching a solar eclipse in India, the two decided to see if they could capture the experience of what they had just witnessed into sound. The result was the track “…And the Day Turned Into Night”. Shpongle was born.

The Shpongle Sound

To describe the sound of Shpongle is like trying to describe the word Shpongle itself. Some what undefinable. The band describe their sound as a strange hybrid of electronic manipulation and shamanic midgets with frozen digits squeezing the envelope and crawling through the doors of perception. See what I mean? At its core the sound is full of swirling psychedelic layers of synthesizer melodies, bubbling dub like basslines, walls of delay, an ocean of effects and samples as well as acoustic instruments such as guitars and flutes. The flute work of Raja Ram, a big part of his early musical career in the UK Prog/Folk band Quintessence, features heavily on some of their more well known tunes.

Releases

Shpongle has 4 studio albums released to date. Their 1998 debut CD “Are you Shpongled?” was released in 1995 at a time when the psychedelic ambient ( psychill ) genre was still in its infancy and finding a market. “Are you Shpongled?” was an instant hit and the duo began touring their new psychedelic ambient sound almost immediately, finding they were in much demand on the psychedelic trance and music festival circuit worldwide. This was partly due to the uniqueness of the sound they had created. There really was nothing quite like it at the time. A true musical landmark that is still regarded as the best psychill album ever created.

Though much in demand the pair had saturated their fan base somewhat and needed to expand their sound to find new fans. A risky step if you should not want to alienate the people who had come to love their debut. With this in mind Shpongle decided for their second album “Tales Of The Inexpressible” in 2001 should include more natural instruments, relying less on the samples and synthesizers of their successful debut release. The resulting album was met with mixed reviews. To the uninitiated it was an amazing release full of creativity and wonder. To the die hard fans it was seen as a bit of a disappointment. Interesting though, after many a listen, these fans began to change their thinking and the CD was largely seen on equal par and in some people’s mind exceeding the first album in terms of production quality and imagination.

It would be four years before the release of the third album “Nothing Lasts… But Nothing Is Lost” in 2005. The intervening years had seen speculation as to if the group had decided to call it a day. The title of the new album also hinted at this possibility. The album saw a return to the heady electronic sounds of “Are you Shpongled?” perhaps as a reaction to some of the negative feedback received from the previous album and its use of acoustic and natural instruments. It also made use of track mixing on all tracks so that each track flowed into each other providing for a long psychedelic sonic journey. It was widely praised in the musical media. Also quite evident in the album was how the tunes had evolved into something that could easily support a live show with full backing band and dancers.

The fourth studio album from Shpongle “Ineffable Mysteries From Shpongle Land” was released in 2009 and continued were the third album left off. While still quite brilliantly psychedelic, the music seemed perfect for a live experience. As such some listeners were a little disappointed with the release. I think the problem was that the psychedelic ambient music scene was now awash with Shpongle like artists who had spent the last 10 years listening to Shpongle, trying to emulate their unique sounds. Personally I found it to be my favorite release since their debut. The album was ranked at #7 on Sputnik’s Best Of 2009 list and #1 on the PsyAmb list.

Simon has also mentioned that the group are working on a fifth album for release in 2012. I would guess this would depend on the Younger Brother schedule and how much recording time they manage to fit into their busy schedules.

Album Artwork

One of the appealing factors of any band is the care given to album covers and inlay design. Shpongle does not disappoint having called on the talents of Mark Neal ( Dusk Design ) and Storm Thorgeson ( designer of Pink Flyod’s “The Dark Side Of The Moon” cover )

Shpongle Live

Over the years the Shpongle Live experience has evolved from two guys behind a mixing deck to an all out Shpongle Live extravaganza complete with huge speaker systems,lighting, fire breathers and psychedelic dancers. Seeing Shpongle live is a bit of a rare experience however as it is quite difficult to organize all the back musicians and dancers to travel around the world at the same time. We are not talking The Rolling Stones here! If you have never seen Shpongle live but would like to see what you are missing out on then I recommend buying a copy of the “Shpongle Live at The Roundhouse DVD” from Twisted Records online store. Brilliant stuff!