Are You Shpongled?
Released in 1998, Are You Shpongled? may not be the first ambient trance album, but it is without question one of the finest examples of the genre, and it continues to serve as inspiration to other composers and producers. Complex, moving, and impossible to classify, the album features the considerable talents of Simon Posford (aka Hallucinogen), who handles the synthesizer programming, and Raja Ram, who contributes thoughtful flute passages and clever arrangements of other wind instruments, especially those traditionally used in the Middle East. Beginning with the watery loops of “Shpongle Falls,” the album covers a wide range of textures and tones, from the gurgling bass lines of “Shpongle Spores” to the frenzied techno rhythms of “Vapour Rumours.” The album ends with the epic “And the Day Turned to Night,” a bold, densely layered reflection (inspired by a solar eclipse) that moves from gentle waves of sound to trippy dub to staccato rhythms over the course of 20 exhilarating minutes. What makes this track, along with the rest of the recording, consistently interesting is Shpongle’s emphasis on melody and pacing. Rather than allow the drum and bass parts to dominate, their music flows naturally and retains an organic feel often lacking in electronic music. This is a journey worth taking.