Music

DJ Spooky (That Subliminal Kid): The Secret Song

Michael Miller

All The Secret Song proves is that the man’s pretentiousness overshadows his talent.


DJ Spooky (That Subliminal Kid)

The Secret Song

Label: Thirsty Ear
US Release Date: 2009-10-06
UK Release Date: 2009-11-02
Amazon
iTunes

DJ Spooky is a tricky guy to deal with. This past summer, he gave my friend at The Village Voice a pretty rough time in an interview, just as he gives every interviewer a pretty rough time. For example:

Q: Anything you’re currently itching to remix?

A: The crazy place we all (or most of us at least) inhabit: reality.

Huh? The guy is archetypically pseudo-intellectual.

Which is frustrating, because when he’s on, he’s on. Case in point: his take on the Coup's “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO”. Boots Riley spits fire and brimstone over a beat that sounds like Stereolab mixed with KRS-One, and every second of its five minutes is viciously entertaining. But for every moment of nuanced wordplay and subtle musical virtuosity on Spooky’s 2009 effort, The Secret Song -- and there aren’t many -- there’s a steaming pile of b.s. to unquestionably overpower any strength.

Take his instrumental re-mix of Led Zeppelin's “Dazed and Confused”, for instance, which cops Jimmy Page’s guitar riff, makes it sound weak and poorly produced (how is that even possible?), and then overdubs some dramatic string arrangements on top. That Subliminal Kid? Are you serious? There are times where DJ Spooky can be so stupidly obvious that his second moniker (why does he need two?) is nothing short of criminal. All The Secret Song proves is that the man’s pretentiousness overshadows his talent.

Why anyone needs to hear the two minutes of dissonant flute arrangements on “Measure by Measure” is beyond me, but the song mutates into just about the most superfluous track of 2009 when George W. Bush’s voice is overdubbed on top. “It’s true this crisis included failure,” Bush says, talking about the free enterprise financial system, but he might as well be talking about The Secret Song. Sampling a George W. Bush speech in 2009 is the cleverest thing DJ Spooky could come up? With so much wrong in the world, with so much relevant to right now, why pick on a has-been?

It’s probably because DJ Spooky is one himself. For a minute there, you couldn’t piss without spraying on Spooky’s shoes. He was everywhere in New York, remixing, DJing, recording, collaborating, all the while discussing the Semiotics of Hip-Hop (ew…), but still worthily mixing genres and unabashedly experimenting. That was the '90s. He was sampling Dvorak and Thurston Moore and it was impressive. 10 years later he’s, well, still sampling Dvorak and Thurston Moore. On “Known Unknowns”, he uses Moore’s scratchy guitar to complement Mike Ladd’s voice. It’s fine, one of the better cuts on the album, but at this point in the game, who cares? What was intriguing and experimental before is now old news, and not even that compelling of a listen.

This album creates too many questions without providing any answers. The frustration of listening to it is on par with the frustration of reading one of DJ Spooky’s head-scratching interviews. With all of his intellectual jargon, he wants us to ask questions, to stroke our chins and say, “Woah, how did he come up with that?” That question arises over the course of this album's 80-minute running time, but it’s overshadowed by the even more important question: Why is The Secret Song so boring? DJ Spooky spends 80 minutes ignoring the question, avoiding the answer.

4

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.