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DJ Spooky - Dubtometry

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Artist: DJ Spooky

Album: Dubtometry

Label: Thirsty Ear

Review date: Jul. 1, 2003

Too Much of a Good Thing

Consisting of remixes of Spooky's Optometry from seventeen artists, Dubtometry, as its title implies, focuses primarily – though not exclusively – on dubbed-out reworkings, including brief interludes from luminaries like Lee "Scratch" Perry and Mad Professor. In addition to known dub personalities like Twilight Circus, some odd choices are also included, such as Negativland. While their version doesn't exactly fit in smoothly with the others, it does lend a much-needed unusual angle to the proceedings.

Some of the remixes here attack the material with the expected dub-oriented methods. The first entry, from Alter Echo Dubtometry, offers slow, ponderous rhythms, rhythmic organ, and predictable yet always tasty dub analog delays, while Twilight Circus has the standard deeply atmospheric dub feel, filled with reverberating horns and twiddly electronic sounds.

DJ Goo's remix has a more standard drum beat, with synth burps, buzzes and noirish horns – almost like a soundtrack to a car chase. J-Live is the only remixer to make new vocals the focus. For the first couple minutes we get spattered percussion, before the beat and vocals kick in. Though it also unfortunately uses the tired old "I think very deeply" vocal sample, otherwise the flow is pretty smooth. Karsh Kale's offering boasts fast, heavy beats like body blows, while the entry from Parachutes is moderately paced, deep and heavy, with an emphasized bassline.

Blend's piece offers an excellent rush when the drums roll in and join the sparse tabla rhythm. Negativland runs vocals through a blender and lays them over stuttering, chopped-up rhythms – the most severely fucked-with remix on Dubtometry. Animal Crackers serve up something more like a cartoon soundtrack than most, a shuffling beat with scratching, rhythmic horns, and weird breaks. Some of the tracks that aren't quite as successful include some fast bouncey beats from Colorform, and I-Sound's contribution, with rather thin-sounding drums and lots of weird noises.

The interludes include short little bits from Lee "Scratch" Perry (a short little vocal-delay atmospheric thing); Mad Professor (reverbed-out vocals); Sequentia Absentia (chiming, echoing vocals); and Alter Echo (dense beats, voices, and sound effects). They're cute, but it somehow feels like someone wanted to include well-known names like Perry and the Professor, but couldn't get them to contribute full mixes, so they're essentially afterthoughts.

Overall, with seventeen tracks in total, the CD features many completely different approaches to the song, which is always the most interesting element to a remix album. Many of them bear little to no resemblance to the original, but some are interesting in their own right. To be honest, though, there's really too much here, and the quality is somewhat overwhelmed by quantity. Cutting out some of the fat would have made for a leaner, meaner collection overall.

By Mason Jones

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