DJ Spooky
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Songs Of A Dead Dreamer , 7/10
Necropolis , 5/10
Riddim Warfare , 7/10
Viral Sonata , 7/10
File Under Futurism , 7/10
Kaotik: Transgression, 5/10
The Quick And The Dead, 5/10
Optometry (2002), 7/10
Present Drums Of Death (2005), 5/10

DJ Spooky is Paul Miller, a Washington disc jockey, who moved to Manhattan in 1992, and soon became one of the spokespersons for the "illbient" movement (not only in music, but also as writer and visual artist).

Songs Of A Dead Dreamer (Asphodel, 1996) was the work that established him, a highly intellectual essay of studio music. His electronic compositions explore the least visited interstices of genres such as ambient, dub, electronica, trip hop, drum'n'bass. Spooky represents a generation of disc jockeys who have overcome the limits of their profession and are becoming music makers as erudite as avantgarde composers. In these tracks Spooky often displays the diabolic imagination of a Morton Subotnick. So much so that the album opens with abstract sonic vignettes of aquatic ambient music that shows little or no dance appeal. Things start warming up with the Galactic Funk, whose ouverture is actually a booming dub pattern seasoned with kosmische electronica and a loop of funky guitar, before the upbeat funky theme and the sensual vocal samples takes over. The rest of the album never gets more physical than this. On the contrary, rhythm is almost always one of the hypnotic elements of a trance-like piece. whether drenched in sci-fi sounds (Hologrammic Dub, Grapheme, The Terran Invasion Of Alpha Centauri Year 2794) Abstract compositions continuously break the pace (Juba's heavily distorted cosmic electronica and exotic coda, Nihilismus Dub's chaotic drumming, psychedelic reverbs and jazzy saxophone) and restore a futuristic vision over the earthly urge to dance. To cap Spooky's experimental ambition, the 11-minute Anansi Abstrakt blends a multitude of sources and then deconstructs the flow into a mechanical, metronomic signal.
Spooky's album set a milestone because it transcended the genre and created austere, chamber music where there used to be only trivial dance grooves.

Necropolis (Knitting Factory, 1996) is an infinitely minor work in Miller's career, a mere manipulation of other musicians' tracks, a sexy exhibition of his musical metabolism for the sake of exhibitionism.

Death In Light Of The Phonograph (Asphodel, 1997) is the soundtrack to a multimedia installation.

DJ Spooky e` Paul Miller, un disc jockey di Washington, trasferitosi a Manhattan nel 1992, che divenne uno dei portavoce del movimento "illbient" (non solo nella musica, ma anche come scrittore e artista visivo).

Songs Of A Dead Dreamer (Asphodel, 1996) fu l'album che lo impose, un esercizio altamente intellettuale di musica costruita a tavolino. Le sue composizioni elettroniche esplorano gli interstizi di generi come ambient, dub, electronica, trip hop, drum'n'bass, usando la fantasia diabolica di un Morton Subotnick.

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Gli EP Galactic Funk (1996) e Synthetic Fury (Asphodel, 1998) sono folli collage di detriti sonori che arrivano da Stockhausen come da Zappa, da Miles Davis come dai Sonic Youth, dal funk come dal reggae.

Riddim Warfare (Outpost, 1998) ha messo a punto uno stile impressionante. I brani valgono piu` come cataloghi di effetti elettronici che come canzoni. Il collage di Synchronic Disjects non ha nulla da invidiare ai capolavori dell'avanguardia. La muzak semi-orchestrale di Peace In Zaire si riallaccia idealmente alla Virgin Forest dei Fugs e alle sceneggiate demenziali di Kid Creole (e alla Summertime dei Sublime). E peccato che Miller non osi approfondire le intuizioni di interludi strumentali come Roman Planetaire (jazzato) e Theme Of The Drunken Sailor (reggae), o la stessa ouverture aliena di Pandemonium.
Nelle sue mani il drum'n'bass diventa una sorta di sinfonia elettronica arrangiata dai Neu come Post-human Sophistry, o un vortice di poliritmi siderali come Riddim Warfare, o una sorta di suite psichedelica come A Conversation e Polyphony Of One.
L'apice del disco e` forse Quilombo Ex Optico, una lunga improvvisazione con Arto Lindsay alla chitarra che si ispira liberamente al tribalismo brasiliano. E l'album si chiude con un mantra buddista.
Le canzoni (il rap su base funk di Seein' Objects, il soporifero jazz-rock da cocktail lounge di Rekonstruction, per non parlare dei pomposi Scientifik e Degree Zero) sono invece quelle che deludono e tutto sommato ridimensionano l'opera di Spooky. Alla fine pare che Spooky abbia registrato due dischi, uno (mediocre) per la folla dell'hip hop e l'altro (strepitoso) per i fans dell'avanguardia. Forse in questa dicotomia sta la sua grandezza.

Credited to Paul D. Miller, Viral Sonata (Asphodel, 1998) is one of his most ambitious works, an amorphous aural architecture that evokes psychic ghosts and post-apocalypse ruins. The collage technique is pushed to the extreme. Method becomes meaning and spawns more method. Miller is a pop culture theorist, half Andy Warhol and half William Burroughs.

Miller the erudite musicologist reached full circle with his tribute to 20th century avantgarde, File Under Futurism (Caipirinha, 1999), performed with help from the avantgarde ensemble Freight Elevator Quartet. Cubist paintings come to mind before futurist symphonies. File Under Futurism appends a cello sonata to a thick texture of frantic, syncopated beats. The grinding tempo of Experimental Asyncronicity is subjected to all sorts of tortures and degradations by instruments whose timbre has been warped to the limit and by electronic effects that sound as unpleasant as sledgehammers and caterpillars. Downtempo Manifesto is a manically percussive track, built around an ominous industrial thumping, phenomenal bass rumbling and atonal synthesizer.
The two short Interstitial pieces, as well as the closing Chromatic Aberration, offer an odd integration of modern avantgarde and vintage dadaism, with results that resemble Fugs' Virgin Forest and psychedelic music.
The quartet augments Miller's eccentric genius with a few gems of baroquely aristocratic chamber music in the vein of the Penguin Cafe` Orchestra (the middle-eastern motif of Infrared, the exotic adagio of The Revolution Will Be Streamed, the romantic aria of This Is What Happens) and Miller floods them with his rhythmic fireworks.
This is a delicious excursion off the beaten track that showcases Miller's potential as a full-fledged composer.

Kaotik: Transgression (Manifold, 1999) is a pretentious and disappoint collaboration with noise guitarist Totemplow.

The Quick And The Dead (Sulfur, 1999), a collaboration with Scanner, is noteworthy mainly because of a reworking of his dub masterpiece, Heterotopian Trace.

With Optometry (Thirsty Ear, 2002) Miller realizes another milestone recording, one which marks a new beginning in jazz music. The difference between live and sampled music is blurred to the point of being meaningless. The jazz quartet of Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass, Joe McPhee on sax and trumpet and Guillermo Brown on drums delivers incendiary ballad-oriented jams that Miller dresses up with invisible maquillage. The captivating, swinging, super-charged Ibid Desmatches Ibid starts the album on a path of creative convergence. Mostly, the band shuns harsh tones in favor of discrete consonance, as proven by the soulful Latin leitmotiv of Reactive Switching Strategies for the Control of Uninhabited Air and by the bluesy, jumping It's a Mad Mad Mad World.
More often than not, the real action is in the background. The atmospheric hip-hop of Asphalt - Tome II is notable not for the rapper's metaphysics but for the subliminal noise by Pauline Oliveros against buzzing, dissonant horn fanfares. The nocturnal tension of Sequentia Absentia I is overwhelmed by percussive and electronic events that lend it a psychedelic quality.
But the experiments are no less bold. The trancey drones and resonating bells of Variation Cybernetique - Rhythmic Pataphysic - Part I, the erratic, cascading tones of Rosemary, the flute vertigoes and harmonic hypnoses of Dementia Absentia II, the asbtruse sonic jelly of Absentia Absentia III, the surreal belly dance of Variation Cybernetique - Rhythmic Pataphysic - II dot the landscape of distorting mirrors, of emergency exits, of wormholes to other universes.
The 11-minute Optometry opens with a random sequence of sounds, a futuristic collage of mechanical nonsense. Then a violin intones a sentimental melody, only to be interrupted by a dj. A deep funk groove and drum'n'bass ambience briefly transport the song to the dance floor, before the violin regains its melancholy lead. The rhythm mutates into syncopated hip-hop, the piano plunges into cacophony, the horns concoct a childish rigmarole, and the bacchanal continues unimpeded, like a colossal rehearsal for some grotesque symphony.
Periphique is a sonata worthy of atonal classical music, each instrument playing against the other while contributing to the overall flowing and ebbing of dementia, until the strumming turns into a weak, frail, tenuous melody. Periphique is not chaos for the sake of chaos: it is organized chaos that favors emergent structure.
Extraterrestrial piano playing, booming bass, romantic sax solos, neurotic drumming are all blended in sophisticated textures that capture the zeitgeist of the early 21st century.

Present Drums Of Death (Thirsty Ear, 2005) is a collaboration with Slayer's drummer Dave Lombardo, featuring Public Enemy's Chuck D, Dalek, Meredith Monk, Meat Beat Manifesto, Living Colour's Vernon Reid.

System Error (2007) is a mix.

"Terra Nova" was a multimedia show that premiered in 2009. The music, however, was rather trivial minimalism inspired by Philip Glass' operas of the 1970s.

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