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LP: DJ Spooky & Totemplow - Kaotik:Transgression

Artist: DJ Spooky & Totemplow
Album: Kaotik:Transgression
Label: Manifold Records
Released: 1999
Purchased From: Reckless Records / 1532 N. Milwaukee / Chicago, IL
Price: $13.99 + tax
Purchased on: 02/22/08

Review: Paul D. Miller is one of the more creative and thought provoking DJs in the vast and murky world of turntablism. Mixing intellectualism, art theory and history with dance beats and textural soundscapes, his appeal runs broad, but occasionally thin. Spooky’s refusal to remain inside of one musical genre and willingness to reach out to musicians and sound dabblers of all sorts has resulted in a catalog that could have a modern music theory course sculpted around it.

Of course, even armed with a willingness to try new things, DJ Spooky has a few time tested tricks, samples and scratch routines that act as fundamental standards he tries to instill with new context. In collaboration, these old tricks can become more than experiments. They become necessities. Sometimes, this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Kaotik:Transgression is a collaboration between Miller and noise artist, Totemplow, released on the now defunct Manifold Records label, and I hate to admit that this is one of those times that the attempt to re-contextualize doesn’t work.

Released in 1998, during Spooky’s transition from his signature illbient sound to his foray into straight hip-hop and drum-and-bass experimentation, Kaotik:Transgression suffers the unfortunate effect of sounding rather stale and phoned in. All of the elements of Spooky’s signature sounds are present, but laid out in a straight line that even the most casual listener would recognize as ingredients in need of a good stir. The strangely melodic noise samples contributed by Totemplow provide an additional layer, but fail in creating a sonic texture or challenge worth your attention.

Drum and bass breaks puncture a slow buzz of a rhythm on the tracks Transgression and Eracism while the creeping “dance” track, Hallucination tries and fails in recreating the catchy one-word repetition style of Kraftwerk. The other tracks on the album follow suit and continue to highlight the weakness at the heart of this experiment: everything is expected.

DJ Spooky is always an artist I keep an open eye for while digging through the crates, but Kaotik:Transgression is barely worth the dust it collects. Those in search of genre bending sonic experimentation, I recommend almost any other DJ Spooky release. For the more adventurous, I recommend the brilliant and challenging , while those in search of more straight hip-hop drum & bass peppered with interesting collaborations should try .

If you simply want infectious, repetitious grooves and simple production, you’ll be much better off with your crazy uncle’s copy of .

Rating: 1.75 / 5

4 Responses to “LP: DJ Spooky & Totemplow - Kaotik:Transgression”

  1. Chris Hajer Says:

    Ouch, I was really hoping this one would be better. I owe you for taking one for the team.

  2. thorn Says:

    Wow, good to know. I’ll admit my movement in turntabling circles is limited at best, so more than anything I’m excited that I recognized the name.

    Given that it looks like you’re pretty familiar with his work, you may already be aware of his contribution to the Reich Remixed project, but just in case… The label Nonesuch got a bunch of DJs to create remixes from the works of Steve Reich. Spooky’s track isn’t one of my favorites on the record, but you might find it interesting. You can hear some samples of it at

  3. consumatron Says:

    Chris: I was hoping the same thing.

    Thorn: I forgot about this project.. and I always forget to utilize Amazon’s listening option. Thanks for the reminder. I’m a total dork when it comes to Spooky. I even rented a car just to drive him around for some engagements he had here in Chicago once. So, it pains me to give him a review this negative, but I’m sorry… I just can’t listen to this record.

  4. thorn Says:

    I know that feeling. A couple of the bands that I geek out on each have a record or two that I just can’t listen to. Fortunately, it hasn’t become a pattern for them.

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