Record Review - 3 January 09 2002

Of all the pop movements embraced by early rave culture, psychedelia has proven the most embarrassing to scene constituents — and the hardest to shake from public perception. "Psychedelic," after all, calls up both the hippie-dippy excesses of rock with too much brown acid coursing through its veins and ravers at their most henna-palmed, pinwheel-eyed, we're-gonna-change-the-world naive. But psy-trance — which is huge in Eastern Europe, South America and Asia, and is making inroads on the American coasts — is a force closer to Jackson Pollock or fractal-image posters than the grid-like op-artish structures of arena-trancers like Sasha and Digweed, evoking the heedless adventure of illegal raves in dirty warehouses.

And no one in the field paints in bolder strokes than Simon Posford, who, as Hallucinogen, recorded some of the most relentlessly discombobulating rave tracks of all time. Now recording as Shpongle, Posford has moved toward a smoother, more "world music"-like vibe, emphasizing congas and soothing Brazilian guitar runs. On 1998's Are You Shpongled? — recently issued for the first time in America — Posford goes from one hippie excess to another. With seven songs averaging over 11 minutes apiece, there's not enough actually happening to prevent the languor from turning into tedium. It's all setting and not enough set.

By contrast, the all-new Tales of the Inexpressible is just as expansive but feels far less slack. At his best, Posford makes the cheesier elements signify the kind of trippy, agreeable aural environment that evokes good nights around the campfire rather than bad ones next to the toilet. He open-mindedly embraces every sound and style he can approximate, from salsa to flamenco. Even the wispy sub-Sarah-McLachlan vocals on "Once Upon the Sea of Blissful Awareness" (those titles — God!) keeps things moving along, especially when Posford says enough already and shoots her voice through his effects processors.??