Forget, for a moment, the old skool: DJ Spooky’s here lecturing at the nu-university of hip-hop, New York. Today’s class touches on postmodernism’s impact on contemporary music, using as a teaching aid the LP, ‘Riddim Warfare’. The projected conclusion will be that it’s not enough to just be clever; you must tell people you’re clever as often as possible. There is some terrific music on ‘Riddim Warfare’, but sometimes it’s easy to miss it. Essentially, he is striving to apply all the cultural information he’s learned from years on the Manhattan experimental circuit on more accessible musical forms, notably hip-hop and faintly jazzy drum’n’bass.
To this end, his album operates a little like UNKLE’s ‘Psyence Fiction’ featuring rap fantasists Kool Keith and Killah Priest and avant-gardists Thurston Moore and Arto Lindsay. So messy, lashing hip-hop jams like the Kool Keith-driven ‘Object Unknown’, or the meditative temple rap of Killah Priest’s ‘Degree Zero’ work just fine, but the space-jazz diversions merely noodle away for no ones sake but their own. At one point, Spooky arrives to tell us, “This is music made from fragments of the world” he’s merely spelling out what’s already obvious from his album and thousands more before it. Calm down, could do better. Class dismissed.