I don't think of DJ Spooky as a hip-hop artist:
his abstract, intellectual sound collages are more like the
IDM work of Aphex Twin than they are like Eminem. However, well,
i guess his beats are kind of funky. And he is from New York....
Spooky being a hip-hop artist honestly never would have occurred
to me before this show. I went expecting an IDM-type night of
abstract beats and disaffected youth posing. Instead i got a
night full of more rap than i normally encounter in a month.
I was surprised by this, and think that a good bit of the crowd
were as well. Or at least, that portion of the crowd that was
at The Echo by 10:30. Apparently hip-hoppers get started even
later than Indie Rockers, because there was a mass influx of
people around midnight. Wierd.
Anyway, the first act, which played to around 50 diffaffected
posing youth (and a few older fogeys like me) was called Psyche
Origami, and they are from Tha ATL. (Why is it that hip-hoppers
constantly repeat where they are from? So they were local. Good
for them....) The best thing about this act was their names:
DJ Synthesis and DJ Danger, along with their MC, Winston. "Winston"
is a cool name for a rapper in a very ironic, indie-rock sort
of way. And "Danger" and "Synthesis" are both darned fine DJ
As i said, that was the best part of the their performance.
Which is not to say that they were bad per se, but rather that
this act fulfilled my stereotype of "rap": the DJ constantly
reiterated their name and where they were from, and he spent
much of his performance trying to get the crowd to react. Disaffected
IDM fans do not raise their fists and go "whoop whoop"
in general. And yet, this was obviously what Winston expected
from the crowd. The result: a whole lot of akward, half-assed
"whoop whoop"-ing, and confused looks and shuffling of feet.
There was one other great thing about Psyche Origami's performance:
apparently they were a little out of practice. Several times
Winston had to chastize the DJs, "When i go 'Aah!' that's your
cue to come in!" He didn't seem angry, instead, even the band
was amused by thier mistakes.
Overall i found Psyche Origami to be boring and annoying. Their
music did not seem too spectacular (not bad, but not stunning
either), but their constant attempts to force a reaction out
of the crowd got really old real quick. But then again, it's
not my thing really. Who knows: if you are into the hip-hop
scene you might really like them. Then again, i doubt that many
serious hip-hoppers read EvilSponge....
Anyway, one really good thing about a hip-hop show is that
set changes fly by. In fact, everything was set up before the
show started: different DJ tables in different parts of the
stage. Psyche Origami were on the right as i stood at the bar.
After 10 minutes of them lugging their gear off, another DJ
took the table set up on the left of the stage.
This guy introduced himself as Djini Brown (although he pronounced
"Djini" as if it were "Gingy"), and he went on about how he
was from Brooklyn. Good for him. Then he asked for more echo
on his mic, and after the request was granted i couldn't understand
a damned thing he said.
Brown started out mixing some very old jazz records with funky
beats into interesting sonic collages. Very much like what the
Blue Series Continuum
is attempting to do. However, that didn't last long, as he constantly
shifted styles. Mostly he played dance music, but he fluctuated
between the various dance subgenres. Some songs were drum-n-bass,
some were trancey, some were hip-hoppity, some were almost dub.
Mostly, it bored me to tears, and i sat at the bar hoping his
set would end after the next beat so that we could get to what
i was there to see. But, alas, i think he played for an hour
or so, as The Echo filled up. Now, in Brown's defense, there
were people dancing, so i guess that he went over well with
the hip-hop crowd.
But then, his set got worse: he rapped. Or rather, he danced
around while shouting into a microphone with so much echo on
it that all i heard was a wavering, rhythmic noise. Not good.
However, after that he went back to his DJ table and slowly,
through pants for breath (he was really moving up there) he
said that next was his last number and that he was going to
mix Coltrane and Malcolm McLaren. I only understood this because
he was speaking so slowly, but it really made me pay attention.
Coltrane and McLaren? Doesn't that violate some sort of Federal
Statute? The idea just seemed so wrong to me. And yet, when
he got it going it really worked. My guess is he was mixing
McLaren's Swamp Thing with Giant
Steps. It was very interesting, and really worked. So
he ended his set on a real upnote.
And then after a short 10 minute gap while he took down his
gear, Spooky and Mike Clark took the stage. Mike Clark is a
classic jazz drummer. He has played with Miles Davis and Herbie
Hancock, and according to the little introductory speach that
Spooky gave, he is very heavily sampled in hip-hop. "I wanted
to work with him," Spooky said, "so we're here to jam." And
with that Spooky set up some loops of horns and pianos and other
odd bits of old jazz recordings, and he grabbed an upright bass,
and they swung into it. Clark drummed away up there on the drum
riser: remarkably complex patterns that only someone who had
been playing jazz for 30+ years could do. And Spooky plucked
away on the bass, a little rusty at times, but very adequately.
(Hint: upright bass is, quite possibly, my favorite instrument.
What an amazing sound.) And the loops sputtered and whirled.
It was, in a word, amazing. Truly stunning. It came across
as pure free jazz, yet occasionally a record in one of the loops
would scratch a bit, or pop and hiss, or change suddenly. So
there was a small electronica element, but mostly it was about
an incredible drummer and a man with an upright bass. I think
they played for 45 minutes or so, and i loved every second of
They was rawkous applause as Clark left the stage, and Spooky
turned to his DJ gear. He cued up some videos on his laptop,
and for 15 minutes we watched MTV music videos from the album
Clark and Spooky made. Then Spooky played a few remixes of that
same stuff, including a great dubbed out mess of a mix by Lee
Then he said, "And that ends the first part of the show. But
it's still early, so i'm gonna play some dance music for you."
And he proceeded to DJ. But it was just after 1 AM, and although
that is sort of early, it was still a little
late for me. And after a little over an hour of his jazz stuff,
nothing else could compare, so i went home.
Overall this wasn't the best show. But the combined music of
Spooky and Mike Clark was worth sitting through all the awkward
and boring hip-hop. I would go see the two of them play again.