Shpongle :: Nothing Lasts... But Nothing is Lost
With a final and exquisite stroke of psychedelic genius in the form of a third album, the Shpongle universe has, to the dismay of its followers, finished expanding. For the uninitiated, words can't approximate the multi-faceted sonic experience of listening to a Shpongle creation. Nothing Lasts... But Nothing is Lost is an epic that distends the imagination and reforms and revitalizes the consciousness, through the textures of unexpected sound.
Structurally, Shpongle's third release is a deviation from their two earlier releases, Tales of the Inexpressible and Are You Shpongled-both of which clock in under ten songs. In comparison, Nothing Lasts is parceled into 20 different songs, none of which break the five-minute mark. At first this experiment seems odd, especially since it is so uncharacteristic of the psy-genre. However, the structure makes sense if approached as a single piece of irregular fabric, one path of flickering consciousness from beginning to end. Every minute the album changes: tampering with tempo and genre, splashing into different global cultures without warning, and switching degrees of intensity between dark to light. Nothing lasts: no style endures long enough for the listener to grow comfortable in any one stretch, demanding active attention to the artful and constant sonic transformations.
And though the transformations are classically Shpongle, Nothing Lasts delivers more live arrangements than its sample-CD driven predecessors. The intensity of the tribal drums and diced, chorused vocals on Brazilian-flavored "Levitation Nation" are tempered by the melodic lift of acoustic guitar strumming. Seventh track "Schnitzled in the Negev" breaks into a twisted dub number, with vocals effected until they sound like an exotic, nasal instrument. A crystalline piano interlude brings pause to the swarm of sound, until it too gives way to the effects of crafty distortion.
At the album's midpoint, "When Shall I Be Free" introduces the requisite Earth-Mother vocals courtesy of Hari Om, whose ethereal voice flawlessly lends itself to warped psy-soundscapes. As a memorable electric guitar undulates throughout, the track bleeds into the triumphant trumpeting of the "Stamen of the Shamen." These two tracks are inseparable, locking together into one of the strongest parts of the album. Immediately after, "Circuits of the Imagination" takes a sharp turn as it swaggers in with a heavy, Massive Attack-branded bass-line and fleshes out with voice effects that could be emanating from a tripped-out electric animal.
With a mid-song mood swing, "Molecular Superstructure" shifts from flute-and-vocal-silken beginnings to a harder and darker transition into the breaky, up-tempo "Turn Up the Silence," a strong, tension-building track. "Nothing Lasts" begins its exit with "Conoisseur of Hallucinations," a dubbed-out, spacey song outfitted with a surprisingly upbeat melody. The track is peppered with ominous, foreshadowing shreds of guitar, which suddenly make sense when "The Nebbish Route" crashes in with Simon Posford's full-on, bad-ass electric guitar riff. The trembling track evokes the metal-influenced psy-sound of Dark Soho, who also wield heavy guitars to create exhilarating and unexpected psychedelic chaos. The album closes with the calming, meditative acoustic guitar play of "Falling Awake" to juxtapose the frenzy of the preceding track.
Through the madness of electronic clashing, sampling, and distortions of the ordinary, Shpongle never fail to introduce organic elements- flute, guitar, tribal drums- so that their sound carries an earthy dimension in addition to the spiritual and psychedelic. At the Shpongle core, psy-trance baba and co-director of Twisted Records Simon Posford (aka the wicked Hallucinogen) and Aussie-hippie Raja Ram spew out this brand of sound. Raja Ram, at 64 years old and still rocking, delivers especially lilting flute-playing on the deep sigh-of -a-song "Exhalation," a track which massages the overwhelmed senses and provides a moment of purity and peace. The Shpongle tribe fills out with the help of dub-master OTT and Pete Callard, who supplies the fine acoustic and electric guitar ruminations.
Another major contributor to "Nothing Lasts" is Shpongle muse Terrence McKenna, the late psychedelics researcher, theoretician, and writer. So goes a McKenna voice sample on "...But Nothing is Lost:" "Nothing lasts... nothing lasts. Everything is changing into something else. Nothing's wrong. Nothing is wrong. Everything is on track. William Blake said nothing is lost and I believe that we all move on."
If you tamper enough with states of consciousness (as Shpongle followers tend to do)-spiritually, chemically, or sonically-chances are you will end up in an alternate reality. But the shifts are fleeting, and in the process, you are never lost-only changed into something else.