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Optometry by DJ Spooky

I have often wondered how a contemporary musical style of the 21st century would sound. OPTOMETRY exemplifies how that might be. This newly released CD on Thirsty Ear has been put together by DJ Spooky, DJ (the Subliminal Kid) and conceptual artist (Paul D. Miller), in a way that transcends an "eclectic" mix. He has turned the CD into an orchestral work with as many movements as there are tracks.

Each track blends into the other, segue to segue. The musicians on the recording, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Guillermo Brown, and Joe McPhee are the predominant members of the orchestra. They play their parts as parts of the whole; no one cut is geared towards featuring anyone player even though in the long run that is what you can hear if you focus. Carl Hancock Rux participates as a vocalist; as violinist is Daniel Bernard Roumain; Bill Martin provides a rhythm section; Pauline Oliveros plays cello; Napoleon of Iswhat raps with Daniel Carter playing flute masterfully in the background; the High Priest of Anti-Pop Consortium sneaks in as well. The electronics, laptop, Kalimba, turntables, and upright bass as manipulated by DJ Spooky conduct the orchestra.

To open the space in which an expanse of music shall follow, Shipp spreads his fingers on the keyboard, Parker snaps the bass strings with a heaviness that is Parker’s signature, Brown plays an equally strong backbeat on the drums and McPhee walks in with a wail on the tenor sax that serves to impress aural memory. The succeeding tracks vary from oddly traditional jazz sounds to the zig-zags of a rap piece. Contemporary classical/experimental music also rears its seemingly imperative presence, more so than is expected.

The texture of the music embraces me. The many distinctive sounds relate to a music of wonder, discovery and reflectivity. It is as if I were walking through a fantastical forest where unique breeds of aural experiences grow. My willingness to be carried down the trail is captured in the continuing rhythmic force. Nothing is more comforting to the soul than a pulse. In this recording, that pulse comes from everywhere; each musician has internal rhythm. Each musician could be his/her own band.

Which brings me to an extremely important point. In order for music to touch the very core of one’s internal constitution, it seems that no matter what elements exist within the music, be they discordance, cacophony, silence, or, golly gee, an organized multiplicity of different sounds from every type of genre imaginable (i.e. OPTOMETRY), the key to reaching the content is rhythm. The impact that DJ Spooky will make with this recording is his vision that seeks to coral within an erudite rhythmic structure a broad range of improvised sound. The Subliminal Kid asks the question how much more current can "the" music become?

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: DJ Spooky
  • CD Title: Optometry
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Thirsty Ear: The Blue Series Continuum
  • Musicians: Matthew Shipp (piano), William Parker (bass), Guillermo E. Brown (drums), Joe McPhee (tenor sax & trumpet), DJ Spooky (laptop, kalimba, turntables, upright bass)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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