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 411mania » Music » Columns

Jam Central Station 3.1.14: Shpongle
Posted by Jeff Modzelewski on 03.01.2014

For the past 15 years, Simon Possford has been taking electronic music in new and exciting directions. He's put himself on the cutting edge of trance and electronic through use of computer-generated loops, live band performances, and spectacular visuals. Although he's been involved in a variety of projects, the name that most people know Possford by is Shpongle.

Linking only Possford to Shpongle is a bit of an error, however. Australian flute player Raja Ram has been involved with Shpongle since the beginning, helping Possford realize his visions. While Possford takes most of the responsibility for arranging the instruments and setting up the necessary computer systems to create the music, Ram helps lay the foundation by providing over-arching musical ideas as well as instrumental contributions. Ram's contributions to Shpongle often go unnoticed, since most live Shpongle performances are Possford-fronted DJ sets. When it comes to the creation of their music, however, Ram and Possford are partners in the difficult to define Shpongle.

Shpongle has always been a little bit of a mystery, and that's just how Possford and Ram like it. The name itself is a creation of the band meant to be "an umbrella term for feeling positive and euphoric emotions." Ram got his start as a flute player in the 60's and 70's before retiring from music, only to return to be a part of the forefront of trance in the 80's. Possford got his start much later, beginning his career in the early 90's. After Possford released his first album as Hallucinogen, he and Ram began work on Shpongle. The first Shpongle track was released in 1996, and the duo released Are You Shpongled? in 1998 on Possford's Twisted Records. The positive response was immediate. Shpongle was moving into some never before seen directions in electronic music, working in trance and ambient music. The first album set a tone for the band as an act closely tied into the drug culture of the electronic music scene, including a song that was seen as a direct positive reference to DMT.

The first album was a significant success for the band in the electronic scene. They continued to push boundaries on their second album, 2001's Tales of the inexpressible. This album featured both Ram and Posford doing more instrumentally to create the electronic music, as well as a variety of other musicians and samples. The album also saw the band expanding their use of Eastern instruments and incorporating Hindu ideas into their music. It was also around this time that Shpongle performed their first live performance, instead of simply a Simon Possford DJ set. As the band continued, most live performances consisted of Possford DJ sets, but Ram would sometimes join Possford to add flute to the DJ performances, and occasionally they put together a full live performance.

After a four-year absence, the duo reconvened for 2005's Nothing Lasts...But Nothing is Lost. The album was originally supposed to be the final Shpongle album. The album featured a variety of samples as well as more live music than their previous albums. While the album is listed into 20 tracks, it is only supposed to represent 8 songs, with each song segueing into the next. The album received excellent reviews from electronic music fans and was viewed as a benchmark album.

After such a triumphant release, most electronic music fans assumed that Shpongle had truly decided to go out on top. However, after a three year hiatus, the band reunited for a rare live show in London in October of 2008, followed by a show in Moscow two months later. The band announced that they would be releasing a new album in 2009, and did more dates over the next year. The Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland was released in November 2009, once again to rave reviews. The album made multiple "Best of 2009" lists and inspired the band to do even more live performances. They did their first full-band U.S. performance at Camp Bisco X in 2011, while Simon Possford toured with the Shpongletron show doing a DJ set. Shpongletron also hit many major festivals in 2011 as well. Possford retired the Shpongletron show after 2011 and debuted The Masquerade in 2012, touring behind that show into 2012. In 2013 Shpongle released Museum of Consciousness, and they are currently touring behind the album.

Shpongle continues to be an enigma both musically and artistically. While live music and Ram's contributions are vital to Shpongle albums, the band has done very few live performances, preferring to allow Possford to represent the band with his DJ sets. The band's music has obvious drug references, and the psychedelic drug culture is a major part of Shpongle's fan base, but Possford insists on performing sober in order to properly manipulate his computers. The band also truly broken through with other music fans, bringing in listeners who don't typically listen to electronic music. Through it all, Possford and Ram appear to have stayed true to their original intentions. Their unique perspective has given them the opportunity to take their vision much further than most electronic acts have done and to a much wider audience. The next step for this band is to see if they can continue to reach the same level year after year.

Hangout adds artists
The Hangout music Festival added some artists this week. Gary Clark Jr., Dawes, Ozomalt, and Matt & Kim will at appear at the festival. They join a lineup that already includes The Black Keys, Jack Johnson, Queens of the stone Age, Pretty Lights, the Avett Brothers, STS9, and many other bands.

Camp Barefoot announces lineup
The 8th annual Camp Barefoot will take place in Bartow, WV from August 21-23. This year's festival includes Beats Antique, Papadosio, Lettuce, Kyle Hollingsworth Band performing a Tribute to Motown, The Motet, Kung Fu, Dopapod, Zach Deputy, and many other great bands.

Rootwire splits from Papadosio
Papadosio and Rootwire are going their separate ways in 2014. After a 2013 event that featured a heavy law enforcement presence, the event will move from Ohio to the Sunshine Daydream Music Park in West Virginia. More information will be coming on the event soon.

O.A.R. announces new album/tour
O.A.R. will be releasing a new studio album in June, and they'll be heading out on tour in April to support the album.

April 24 Las Vegas, NV Brooklyn Bowl Vegas
April 25 Las Vegas, NV Brooklyn Bowl Vegas
April 26 Las Vegas, NV Brooklyn Bowl Vegas
April 28 Solana Beach, CA Belly Up
April 29 Solana Beach, CA Belly Up
May 2 Los Angeles, CA The Troubadour
May 3 Los Angeles, CA The Troubadour
May 4 Los Angeles, CA The Troubadour
May 6 Anaheim, CA House of Blues
May 7 Ventura, CA Majestic Ventura Theatre
May 8 Reno, NV The Knitting Factory
May 9 San Francisco, CA The Independent
May 10 San Francisco, CA The Independent
May 11 San Francisco, CA The Independent
May 14 Portland, OR Roseland Theater
May 15 Seattle, WA Neptune

Jam in the Sand
February 28-March 4, 2014
Negril, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra will host the event. Other performers to be announced.

Panic en la Playa tres
March 17-21, 2014
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Widespread Panic will perform four shows during the event.

Suwannee Springfest
March 20-23, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, Sam Bush Band, Southern Soul Assembly, Donna the Buffalo, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others

Hoopla in the Hills
March 27-30
Poston Lake Music Park
Athens, OH
Performers include: Papadosio, Keller Williams, EOTO, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, Cosby Sweater, Rumpke Mountain Boys, and many others.

Wanee Festival
April 10-12, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Allman Brothers Band, Trey Anastasio Band, Umphrey's McGee, moe., Lynard Skynard, Gov't Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Dumpstaphunk, and many others

Tortuga Music Festival
April 12-13, 2014
Beach Park
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Performers include: Sheryl Crow, Train, Slightly Stoopid, Ziggy Marley, Brett dennen, Delta Rae, Moon Taxi, The Revivalists, and many others.

Counter.Point Festival
April 25-27, 2014
Kingston Downs, GA
Performers include: Outkast, Pretty Lights, STS9, Foster the People, Krewella, Big gigantic, Thievery Corp., Griz, Shpongle, Moon Taxi, and many others

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
April 25-27 and May 1-4, 2014
New Orleans, LA
Performers include: Phish, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Santana, String cheese Incident, John Fogerty, Galactic, Avett Brothers, and many others.

Hangout Music Festival
May 16-18
Gulf Shores, AL
Performers include: The Black Keys, The Killers,Outkast, Jack Johnson, Queens of the Stone Age, Pretty Lights, The Avett Brothers, STS9, The Flaming lips, Modest Mouse, Zedd, and many others.

May 22-25, 2014
Cumberland, MD
Performers include: The Del McCoury Band, The String Cheese Incident, Ricky Skags & Bruce hornsby, Yonder Mountain String band, Railroad earth, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others.

Summer Camp
May 22-25, 2014
Three Sisters Park
Chillicothe, IL
Performers include: moe., Umphrey's McGee, Trey Anastasio Band, Bassnectar, Primus, Yonder Mountain String Band, Zac Brown Band, Lotus, EOTO, The Devil Makes Three, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others

Dark Star Jubilee
May 23-25, 2014
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Performers include: 3 nights of Dark Star Orchestra, Yonder Mountain String Band, Galactic, Keller Williams & More Than A Little, Anders Osborne, The Werks, The Wailers performing Legend, and many others

Sasquatch! Music Festival
May 23-25, 2014
The Gorge
George, WA
Performers include: OutKast, The National, Queens of the Stone Age, MIA, Foster the People, Kid Cudi, Neko Case, Violent Femmes, and many others.

Nelsonville Festival
May 29-June 1, 2014
Nelsonville, OH
Performers include: The Avett Brothers

June 5-8, 2014
Mulberry Mountain
Ozark, AR
Performers include: The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, STS9, Umphrey's McGee, John Butler Trio, Flaming Lips, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Lettuce, Dr. Dog, Papadosio, and many others.

Mountain Jam
June 5-8, 2014
Hunter Mountain, NY
Performers include: Gov't Mule, Bob Weir & RatDog, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov't Mule, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Umphrey's McGee, Pretty Lights, and many others

Governor's Ball
June 6-8, 2014
Governor's Island
New York, NY
Performers include: Outkast, jack White, Vampire Weekend, The Strokes, Skrillex, Interpol, and many others.

June 12-15, 2014
Manchester, TN
Performers include: Elton John, Kanye West, Jack White, The Avett Brothers, The Flaming Lips, Neutral Milk Hotel, Zedd, Umphrey's McGee, John Butler Trio, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Yonder Mountain String Band, and many others

Snowmass Mammoth Festival
June 13-15, 2014
Snowmass Village, CO
Performers include: LEftover Salmon, chris Robinson Brotherhood, Xavier Rudd, Les Claypool's Duo De Twang, The Motet, Bonerama, and many others

Telluride Bluegrass Festival
June 19-22, 2014
Telluride, CO
Performers include: Sam Bush Band, Bela Fleck & The Colorado Symphony, Brandi Carlile, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Del McCoury Band, Leftover Salmon, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others.

Firefly Music Festival
June 19-22, 2014
Dover, DE
Performers include: Foo Fighters, Outkast, Jack Johnson, Imagine Dragons, Pretty Lights, The Lumineers, Weezer, Girl Talk, Tegan and Sara, and many others.

Electric Forest
June 26-29, 2014
The Double JJ Ranch & Resort
Rothbury, MI
Performers include: The String Cheese Incident (3 nights), STS9 (2 nights), Ms. Lauryn Hill, Stephen Marley, EOTO, Anders Osborne, The Revivalists, Nahko & Medicine for the People, Rising Apalachia, Zedd, and many others.

High Sierra
July 3-6, 2014
Quincy, CA

Sasquatch! Music Festival
July 4-6, 2014
The Gorge
George, WA
Performers include: Soundgarden, Kraftwerk, New Order, Frank Ocean, Neutral Milk Hotel, Spoon, Tegan and Sara, Gogol Bordello, Atmosphere, and many others.

Northwest String Summit
July 17-21, 2014
Horning's Hideout
North Plains, OR
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band, The Motet, Steep Canyon Rangers, Fruition, Dead Winter Carpenters, The Rumpke Mountain Boys, and many others

July 18-20, 2014
Waterfront Park
Louisville, KY

July 23-27, 2014
Floyd, VA
Performers include: Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Ms. Lauryn Hill, ray LaMontagne, Thievery Corporation, Ziggy Marley, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, and many others

Gathering of the Vibes
July 31-August 1, 2014
Seaside Park
Bridgeport, CT

Outside Lands
August 8-10, 2014
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA

Peach Music Festival
August 14-17, 2014
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
Performers include: Allman Brothers Band (2 nights), Bob Weir & RatDog, Trey Anastasio Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lotus, JJ Grey & Mofro, The Revivalists, Dopapod, The Infamous Stringdusters, papadosio, and others.

Camp Barefoot
August 21-23, 2014
Bartow, WV
Performers include: Beats Antique, Papadosio, Lettuce, Kyle Hollingsworth Band performing a tribute to Motown, Dopapod, Kung Fu, The Motet, Zach Deputy, and many others.

August 29-31, 2014
Snow Ridge Ski Resort
Turin, NY
Performers include: moe. (3 headlining nights), Lotus, O.A.R. Les Claypool's Duo de Twang, Soulive, Twiddle, Aqueous, and others.

Lockin' Music Festival
September 4-7, 2014
Arrington, VA
Performers include: The String Cheese Incident, The Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh & Friends, Widespread Panic, and Bob Weir & Ratdog

Phases of the Moon Festival
September 11-14, 2014
Kennekuk County Park, IL
Performers include: Widespread Panic (2 nights), Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov't Mule, Galactic, Leftover Salmon, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and many others.

Catskill Chill
September 5-7, 2014
Camp Minglewood
Hancock, NY

Harvest Music Festival
October 16-18, 2014
Mulberry Mountain
Ozark, AR

Jam Cruise
January 6-11, 2015
Departs from Miami, FL

Thanks again for stopping by. I'll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!


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