DJ Spooky

DJ Spooky Presents - In Fine Style: 50,000 Volts of Trojan Records

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Putting his name on the cover might strongly suggest it, but no, DJ Spooky isn't mixing these tracks. He's a selector -- or in proper Jamaican, "selecta" -- and the tracks on 50,000 Volts of Trojan Records fadeout untouched and unbothered by someone who can twist music like few others when he's inspired. Fans might find this a letdown since the man who defined illbient hasn't floored them with a production album in a while, and a jaw-dropping Trojan mix like Madlib's Blunted in the Bomb Shelter Mix would serve him well. Course, it is what it is and taken as that it's great, thanks in no small part to Spooky's enlightening liner notes. They are part history lesson, part enthusiasm booster with a dash of that Spooky talk that ties together technology and humanity (Spooky on Jamaica: "You can think of the whole culture as a shareware update, a software source for the rest of the world to upload."). Without the liner notes, 50,000 Volts is a pleasurable mix of tunes that unearths some of the seminal reggae label's hidden gems with a heavy emphasis on DJs -- as in the Jamaican sense of the word, not a turntable mixer but a Jamaican rapper -- and oddball cuts that shamelessly bend the rules. The Hollywood horns that dominate Bruce Ruffin's "Rain" and the Dave Brubeck-borrowing "The Russians Are Coming (Take Five)" from Val Bennett prove Spooky loves a gimmick, or the way he sees it, when some genre of music ingeniously borrows or plunders another. The selecta argues that Jamaica was there first and set the wheels in motion, allowing dance music, hip-hop, and eventually pop to borrow and rekindle beats and melodies. Resisting the urge to mash-up these already mashed-up tunes is, in the end, admirable and on point while expectations are adjusted easily once the listener has CD booklet in hand and cultural significance on the brain. To paraphrase Spooky, Jamaica has been doing the musical diaspora thing on the down-low long, long before whatever genre-blending artist you just heard about was coming up with their brew. 50,000 Volts is all the evidence you need and filled with brilliant ideas both in the music and the text.

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