'Dubometry' by DJ Spooky with Mad Professor, 'Voices of the dead' by Konstantin Raudive and others
by Ian Simmons
[ cdreviews ]
Two remix CDs, both with DJ Spooky, but two more different discs it would be hard to find. Dubometry revisits DJ Spooky's recent Optometry collaboration with Matthew Shipp's Thirsty Ear Blue Series house band, while Voices of the Dead's source is exactly what it says on the packet: dead people talking. Raudive was the first investigator of EVP (Electromagnetic Voice Phenomena), allegedly a way of recording messages from the afterlife by leaving high sensitivity tape recorders in quiet, empty room. Here the deeply strange results of his work have been farmed out to various remixers for their interpretation. If you actually want a good idea of EVP in the raw, this is probably not the best place to go for it (Ghost Orchid, a CD released three or four years back, contains material from Raudive and others, gives an excellent picture of this bizarre phenomenon), but as an interesting gloss on the whole business, this is not a bad piece of work. As well as Spooky, you get, among others, Lee Ranaldo, Scanner, David Toop and Random Inc, and what results is much eerie low-end rumble and hiss, some of which seems to have made very little use of the EVP source material, but captures the vibe pretty well. I have to say, though, that I am not entirely sure what the point of this CD is. It seems curiously non-committal and contains few, if any, startling moments. Virtually no-one has completely addressed the form and content of the messages, preferring to use them as ambient texture, and while this is quite pleasant and mildly engaging, I feel EVP has the potential to have much more made of it in a context like this.
Dubometry, however, continues Thirsty Ear's triumphant reinvention of jazz. Not content with putting hip-hop supremo DJ Spooky together with a team of superlative improvisers to produce the richly pleasing Optometry last year, they have now gone a step further. The results of those sessions have been turned over to dub genius Mad Professor and a variety of other remixers to produce a jazz/hip-hop/dub hybrid that is as refreshingly successful as it is unlikely. There is also "narration" from Lee Perry, although his remix contribution 'Jungle Soldier' is one of the more pedestrian outings here - he has not been the same since burning down the Black Ark and moving to Switzerland. Elsewhere, DJ Goo creates several spirited disruptions of the source material and plunderphonic veterans Negativland acquit themselves with style on their 'Asphalt Remix'. I'm sure everyone is going to get bored of me saying this every time they put out a CD, but Thirsty Ear current cannot put a foot wrong with their Blue Series and associated releases; they are fearless and constantly take risks with form and content which have consistently paid off. DJ Spooky is a lot better off with live jazzers than dead voices. Another "must have", I reckon.