Viral record review: DJ Spooky, “The Secret Song” (Thirsty Ear)


I showered with DJ Spooky this morning after our night of love; I wasn’t jealous even though I knew he had just come from a threesome with Hillary Clinton and Hamid Karzai -- when you’re relating to someone with Spooky’s international influence, you have to make allowances. I waved goodbye an hour ago as he teleported to his next destination. During my breakfast, a DJ Spooky bar code tumbled out of my cornflakes box. Grateful for his little surprise, I scanned the code with my iPod to download Spooky’s personally customized musical birthday greetings featuring vocals by Bono and MIA. (It’s not my birthday, but I’m having it legally changed to coincide.) When I went to my computer, I was gratified to see on Google News that Barack Obama had deferred his Nobel Peace Prize to Spooky. And my e-mail contained a review, written by Spooky himself in my name, of his new “The Secret Song” -- so thoughtful, as he knew I had a canasta party today and might not have time to write it myself. So here it is.

4, 5, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18: Those are the tracks you should listen to if you don’t like hip-hop. That’s half of a 79-minute album, so it should be plenty. If you don’t like guest artists, though, you’ll have to knock out some more tracks: In addition to Spooky’s rap pals (the Coup, Jungle Brothers, Mike Ladd, Abdul Smooth), he’s got Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, jazz pianist Vijay Iyer and Iranian singer Sussan Deyhim (Partridge gal Susan Dey’s name since her 1975 conversion to Islam).

But any way you program it, “The Secret Song” loads plenty of ammo. The beats are motivational and creative. The bass is big, tight and clean. And as usual, Spooky achieves remarkable success in forcing disparate sources into unnatural congress.

Classical? Bach-like flute gets funky on “The War of Ideas.” Johann S-type keyboard visits a similar ghetto party on “Measure by Measure,” which is all sexy fun except for a brief Dubya declamation. Weeping violins make a lush alliance with tough groove on “L’Autre.”

Jazz? “Pax Per Fidem” glues shimmery vibes to a lazy shuffle beat, which mutates only slightly when Iyer sprinkles Cecil Taylor glass shards onto the following “Iago’s Lament.” (Spooky’s DJ skillz show up often in the album’s transitions.) Huffing flute straight outa Roland Kirk skanks into armflap reggae on “Heliocentric.”

Dub? All over the place.

Rock? Take special note of two gorgeously textured instrumental Led Zeppelin reorchestrations, “Dazed and Confused” and “No Quarter.” Here and elsewhere, the musicians of the Golden Hornet Project prove valuable auxiliaries -- transformative modernists who know how to retain the power of their sources.

It’s all in the spirit of technological foot-fun, except for the raps and the speech clips, which tend to give the listener an unpleasant feeling like someone’s trying to teach him something, whereas Spooky surely knows that the medium is the message, and that said listener already knows everything anyway. At least that’s what you’d say if you were Greg Burk. Which, of course, I am.

The CD comes with a bonus DVD of Dziga Vertov’s 1924 Revolution film “Kino-Glaz,” with reorchestration by Spooky. Watch a 5-minute YouTube trailer here.

Read my LA Weekly interview with DJ Spooky from way back in 1998 here.