From The Vault > Alexavier's Time Warp 2009

Alexavier S. Strangerz: Time Warp 2009
A look back at some favorite 2009 releases

SHPONGLE - Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland
Label: Twisted Music

ding-ding-ding we have a winner!!

And now I shall take you to a special land. Shpongleland! But first, some history. Take it away, Wiki!

Now that we’ve established that Shpongle is psybient, psychedelic ambient, and mostly created by ex-goa trance creators Simon Posford and Raja Ram, it’s time to explain a couple of things.

1. Why am I recommending Shpongle to you? They are truly the best in a genre that already has a lot of room for creativity, giving these ex trance-masters a good canvas on which to perform their art... or shall I say “magic”?

2. Why suggest the latest Shpongle release and not take us back to their debut, Are You Shpongled? While it's true that Shpongleland wasn't built in one album (they have many fine releases.) now that it's built, we might as well take the grand tour! Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland is a solid introduction to what Shpongle can do; and I did not want to go back further than 2009 for this particular Time Warp. Many of these featured releases are still relevant!

For the realization of this project, Raja Ram and Simon used up to 12 additional studio musicians and instruments, ranging from guitars, keyboards, and drums; to cellos, flutes, vocals, and a rare African hand percussion instrument which sounds like an elegantly tuned steel drum! For best results, first listen on good quality speakers or headphones as there are a lot of subtle nuances that make the painted soundscape more complete. Previous to the commercial full release of this album, many of its standout tracks (as well as tracks from other albums) were featured on 2008's Shpongle DVD Live From the Roundhouse. I highly recommend buying both the CD Ineffable Mysteries, and the Roundhouse DVD together. Seeing these musicians and dancers bring the full range of sonic energy to a packed house of lucky Londoners really helps one get into the tracks. Most concert videos are not as good as the real thing, but here is a rare glimpse of Shpongles full show, with the aforementioned dancers, videos, audience participation, and more! Shpongle does play in the states live, but I would still get the DVD first, as I'm not sure they could bring the full show here.

For many years, I collected the work of artists who manage to cross-pollinate their productions from many different genres of music, and who feature many different cultures in their mix. I realize that many are not into music that is from multi-genres. There is good reason for this! Unfortunately, there are those artists (and I give no examples for obvious reasons) who thought perhaps they could expand thier audience base by expanding their sound to include other genres; and instead destroyed what had made them unique! This is not the case of Shpongle. Just because this music most comfortably fits in a sub-category of ambient or chill-out music, doesn't mean they don't construct energized, or even upbeat rhythms. They often do a great job of bringing the beat layer by layer, like a sonic lasagna, to a danceable ferver; but unlike dance genres, they don't stay there or rely on 135 BPMs to communicate intense energy moments. This is a band that can rock out, but they have things to say and places to go with their music. Any audiophile would love to have an album so complex and rich!

While there are too many standout tracks to mention, if the sister release of the Shpongle LIVE IN LONDON DVD is any indicator, I would narrow the standouts to “Shpongloese Spoken Here”, “I Am You”, and “No Turn Unstoned”. Keep in mind this is a while album experience. An hour or so of your life filled in a way unlike any other CD can do! Order the CD and DVD together from the label website.

ASSEMBLAGE 23 - Compass
Label: 23db Records

Every now and then, a release comes out that is so gripping you simply must tell the world about it! That’s the case with the latest offering from EBM giants, Assemblage 23’s Compass.

The tracks were sent to me by the Metropolis Records promotion team for DJ use, and sure enough the whole CD is very beat oriented. It was hard to choose which tracks to play, but this release has a certain album orientation flow as well. Although dance-worthy, the rhythms are not constructed in a strictly 4/4 manner (a fact that separates much EBM from techno or trance). Instead, samples, keyboard lines, and guitars are layered creatively often to carry the message in the superb lyrics.

Although edgy enough to not be a sacrifice to EBMs industrial roots, I personally found this CD to be easy to introduce to those who are not already fans of EBM. I feel it’s the catchy beats combined with the album flow that keeps even neonates holding-on until the albums end. My 4 year old godson even commented “it makes me step on daddy’s feets!” How is that for an endorsement? Of course, mommy and daddy also enjoyed the intelligent lyrics.

So, if you thought A23 was just good remixers without much to offer of their own anymore, get this album along with your favorite condiment to help that crow you’re about to eat go down! This is easily my second favorite Metropolis release from 2009, only barely edged out by the number one release (due to it being a newer band deserving of cross-over attention).

Some standout tracks include the opener “Smoke”, which starts with a sample of an air raid/storm siren. Very appropriate, as if to warn you of the tsunami of sound about to hit you like a ton of well-tuned bricks.

In my experience, many albums get soft in the middle (having spent their energy by the first few tracks); but the next stand-out for me comes all the way down the line to “Alive” (track 7), an uplifting tale. There are so many stand-out tracks, naming just a few is difficult. Towards the end of the CD, “Angels & Demons” is almost too upbeat (like drinking espresso right at bedtime); but because it is another great track at a point where most albums have given up the ghost, it helps lock in this release as one of the best Metropolis has offered in awhile (of course, no disrespect to the other fine releases; this is indeed special and certain to be a classic).

Rounding out the album (and soothing the jitters) is the ballad-like “The Cruelist Year” -- again very good album-planning by Tom Shear and the rest of A23!

Make Compass a part of your collection! 2009 wasn't that long ago; and the music is still relevant, inspiring, and brilliant.

INFECTED MUSHROOM - The Legend of the Black Shawarma
Label: Adrenaline

While not making it to the top of my list of 2009’s releases, Infected Mushroom deserves special mention with The Legend of the Black Shawarma, pushing the boundaries of trance music so hard as to leave “Goa trance” in the dust.

I first heard the infectious beats of Infected Mushroom in a Various Artist compilation; however it was the prolific DJ Cyberina Flux who played them in the midst of a mostly instrumental EBM set and really blew my mind with the bands’ lead-footed approach to dance riffs. Indeed, most fans of today’s EBM and industrial will find themselves right a home with this CD. I had no clue what a “Black Shawrama” is, and web searches only led me right back to Infected Mushroom; so it’s safe to assume they made it up!

Best to buy this release new, as it comes with a small flyer enabling (for a small fee), the download of ringtones.

If you have been thinking nothing good has come out in the last few years, try this or any other title in this very special Time Warp 2009, and prepare to re-think your position!


SHPONGLE - Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland

01. Electroplasm
02. Shpongolese Spoken Here
03. Nothing is Something Worth Doing
04. Ineffable Mysteries
05. I Am You
06. Invisible Man in a Fluorescent Suit
07. No Turn Un-Stoned
08. Walking Backwards Through the Cosmic Mirror

ASSEMBLAGE 23 - Compass
01. Smoke
02. Collapse
03. Impermanence
04. How can I sleep?
05. Spark
06. Leave this all behind
07. Alive
08. Greed
09. Angels & Demons
10. The cruelest Year

INFECTED MUSHROOM -- The Legend of the Black Shawarma
01. Poquito Mas
02. Sa’eed
03. End of the Road
04. Smashing the Opponent (feat. Jonathan Davis)
05. Can’t Stop
06. Herbert the Pervert
07. Killing Time (feat. Perry Farrell)
08. Project 100
09. Franks
10. Slowly
11. Legend of the Black Shawarma

~Alexavier S. Strangerz