drwex (drwex) wrote,

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Oh right, we did see Shpongle (music)

Last fall I finally got to see Simon Posford in person as part of a multi-act show headlined by Beats Antique. He was far and away the best part of that show so we got tickets to see him as a headliner this month at House of Blues. It was... less than I hoped for.

Posford, like any other solo DJ, suffers from the "there's a guy and he's standing on stage turning some knobs" problem. If you watch the stage shows of the big-name European DJs they work around this by having big projection screens, lighting and visual effects, and so on. Posford had a frame set around his control board that reminded me somewhat of a puppet show "set" with some lights that were front- and rear-projected onto bits of it. The lights were entertaining for a few minutes but I felt I didn't get anything out of being at the show that I wouldn't have gotten from listening to a streamed set.

The music was billed as "Simon Posford Presents the Shpongletron 3.1" and that turned out to be mostly standard Shpongle tracks sped up. Unfortunately I didn't think going faster made them any better. Psy is often differentiated from other kinds of trance by having a higher BPM but what makes Shpongle music good isn't that.

Last.fm tells me that "Nothing is Something Worth Doing" is their top Shpongle track. If you play it, you can hear that the underlying rhythm is indeed quite fast. But what catches my ear isn't the beats, it's the clever tonal variations, the samples from different instruments, and the way things drop in and out. The steel drums on NiSWD for example are played at their normal pace over the fast beats and that's what makes the music.

Take also "Dorset Perception", one of my favorite Shpongle tracks. It's got extremely fast bongo-style drumming at the start and the various other instruments he mixes in go at the same pace. I particularly love that he uses Spanish-style guitar, which often features fast fingering - it reminds us that EDM didn't invent speed. But the track doesn't really hit its stride until about a minute in when the vocals come. The play of the longer soaring vocal pieces (which Spotify tells me are Michelle Adamson) against the scat-like chop vocals are one of my favorite things about this track. Speeding it up doesn't make it better, I think - it just makes me miss out on those interesting contrasts.

Posford is quite skilled at what he does, but the fact that I was sitting in the audience noticing his technical skills meant that I wasn't getting carried away by the music, which is ultimately what I went to the show for.
Tags: music, shpongle
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