Review Summary: A heavy tolerance
In late October, 2017, Raja and Simon of psybient group Shpongle dropped something not typically measured in micrograms. Codex VI
is their sixth full length (I've sparred you the detective work) and follows the enormous journey that is their discography. The duo has immortalized a place in the psychedelic, even beyond music, by creating soundtrack after soundtrack to hallucinogenic trips across the world. Hop onto any hippie-fuck shroom forum, ask for music recs, and wait for Shpongle to be seconded by the third comment. The cult following they have is enormous, and I'd consider myself part of it. So when I first heard about Codex
, I was absolutely psyched. Unfortunately while Shpongle released a solid album, they fail to up the dosage from their previous trips resulting in a record that doesn't reach the mind-altering peaks of their past.
begins with ethereal wails of hospitality before melting into a rhythmic jam session. Shpongle are quick to introduce their trademarked duality of electronic music (dub, trance, ambient, etc.) and organic instrumental/vocal world music. It's this companionship that has always attributed the genre's strength, but right from the get-go, track “Remember the Future” seems to peacock its sounds rather than truly explore itself. And this is an issue that is sadly being foreshadowed for the rest of the album. There are few, if any, definitive moments on the album that feel like Shpongle is exploring new territory. It is as if the adventure has become more habitual than recreational. Perhaps this could be an admirable direction if it is at all self aware; Shpongle may be acknowledging the inherit fun of all things psychedelic over the dreaded spitrtual enlightenment one love DMT bro
. It's up to you to decide whether or not this is the case.
As for owning such a vibrant, enigmatic and original sound to their own style, its hard to deny how formulaic it is. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Shpongle is filling the niche they've created. It'd be pretty drastic for the group to ditch any piece of their puzzle, and this release does
safely provide another step along the way. Fortunately for us, rehashing the past means that there isn't a misstep on the album, at least not any that weren't there before. There are still some corny vocal samples that sap momentum from a song, but again like previous releases its reciprocated by others better placed. It's not like Shpongle has suddenly lost their mastery of production either, with texture and sound design being as mind blowing as ever. If there was ever anything inherently new
to the album, it's a relaxed and meditative vibe that dominates the confusion around it. There seems to be a stronger emphasis on chilled out world music standing on its own, rather then it being used to uphold the more contemporary sounds around it.
Standout beast “Empty Branes” is worth a mention too, cause damn does this song justify it. What begins as a meditative wind instrument slowly ventures down its own rabbit hole into a beautiful buildup. Along the way, a sample discussing Brane Theory reveals at a perfect time. Astrophysics certainly lends itself to the psychedelic world, no matter how cliché it may be, and the psybient uprights around it make it's appearance slightly closer to astounding than laughable. It is a shame that few tracks around this song reach a similar height. But despite being Shpongle's weakest release thus far, Codex VI
is still a good album. It's hard to fault a band for releasing an album that would be a proud accomplishment of most other acts. But Shpongle are better than this, and since there is minimal evolution of to their sound on Codex VI
, you can scratch the same itch by (re)visiting their previous works. Yet I'd still encourage fans of the duo to give it a shot, especially if they feel they've burnt out the rest of the discography.