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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
DJ Spooky
Thirsty Ear Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Instant classic, without a doubt. For a long time now there have been two DJs in my life - DJ Shadow and DJ Spooky. Josh Davis has been making a household name out of DJ Shadow since 1996's breakout Endtroducing and Paul D. Miller has been cutting quite a path himself under the moniker DJ Spooky since about the same time, when he released the shattering Songs of a Dead Dreamer in 1996. Spooky followed up the impressive album with multiple tours de force including the amazing Riddim Warfare for the Outpost label in 1998 and the long, flowing, stream of consciousness contribution to the Under the Influence series on Six Degrees last year. And now, in 2002, DJ Spooky drops the fucking bomb on us all with Optometry.

Similar to what Six Degrees is doing with it's Under the Influence series, Thirsty Ear has developed it's Blue Series in an effort to spotlight a host of progressive jazz projects, which has thus far been realized extremely well with releases by Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Craig Taborn, Guillermo Brown, Mat Maneri and others. The success of developing the previous installments in the series should not go unnoticed, but Spooky has raised the bar quite high with Optometry, an ambitious blend of organic and synthetic elements, a cryptic labyrinth of fresh and sampled sounds. It is both a live album and a studio creation, an album that is cut from the same cloth as both the Avalanches and Sun Ra, woven back together seamlessly.

To create such an amalgamation, Spooky has recruited a host of other Blue Series performers as well as tapped outside sources to assemble a blue-chip squad of musicians. The band on Optometry utilizes William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Guillermo Brown, Billy Martin (of Medeski, Martin & Wood), Joe McPhee and others, all backing Spooky's work on bass, kalimba, turntables and laptop. The entire collaboration is both spellbindingly intricate and immediately engaging, with Spooky's powerful hand often calling to mind Brian Eno in his ability to splice distinct elements into a cohesive unit without sacrificing the individual voice of each element. Shipp's piano weaves hypnotic lines while Parker lets loose on the thick bass strings, gouging underneath the alto saxophone arpeggiations of McPhee. Brown and Martin both unleash maniacally fluttering percussive work and Spooky captures it all, runs it through his software, ponders on it, stirs it, scratches and mixes, eventually pounding everything back at a similar frequency but from a distinct angle that neither contradicts nor rhythmically copies the original inputs.

This really is an outstanding collection of what could loosely be called songs. More than simply creating structures with a distinct beginning and end, Spooky and his cast develop intricate, multi-level fractured mosaics that, like any prism through which inputs are filtered, deposits a different view each time you approach it. Optometry bridges the gap between organic jazz and electronic manipulation more successfully than most, and it does it with a marked creative flair that can only be achieved with DJ Spooky at the helm. Fantastic!

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth



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