DJ Spooky Digs A New Whole With Modern Mantra

That Subliminal Kid finds stylistic plurality in combination of '90s tracks.

If DJ Spooky had a mantra, it would be "make them dance, and make them think."

That's just what he does on his third full-length album, Modern Mantra, which drops Tuesday (May 21). The record follows in That Subliminal Kid's tradition of blending hip-hop, drum'n'bass, ambient and electronic music. But this isn't the same old Spooky record.

"The message behind Modern Mantra is to highlight the vibe of rhythm permutation," Spooky said. "What's that mean? Basically, it's all about styles as plural, and not just one style. I'm into a lot of stuff, and that's what makes listening to music fun. It's all about flippin' the material into some kind of new situation, and that's become my obsession lately. Mantras are about expanding your sense of time. I want to do that with rhythm."

Spooky spent a lot of time considering what kind of album he wanted to assemble and was careful to include nods to the golden years of electronic music and brand-new sounds. Then he set about putting it together.

"I wanted to check through a lot of memories of the '90s — it seems like such a long time ago when instrumental hip-hop and cool-style lyrics were new and interesting," Spooky said.

"We're bombarded with so much of the same thing these days. Modern Mantra is a kind of placeholder in my mind of a different, more innocent time in electronic music. It's amazing how remote the '90s seem now. I guess it's partially nostalgia for the 'early days' of this kind of electronic music/hip-hop/drum'n'bass hybrid sound that came out, but updated for now."

With tracks from Moby, Aesop Rock, Cujo (Amon Tobin) and DJ Krush, Spooky described the album as "a kind of digital jazz mixed with rugged beats." And coupled with his meticulous mixing, Spooky said that Modern Mantra should be examined as a whole, rather than cut-by-cut, to see how that fully plays out.

"I'm really into the art side of things, and I got into mixing as an art statement. But if you can make people think and dance at the same time, it's all the more fun. The current musical landscape for me is all about 'all rules are gone' — with turntablism, electronica and club music in general, it's all about being so creative that you draw people into the mix and show them new sounds," he said. "New ways of thinking."

Track listing for Modern Mantra:

  • Russell Mills/Sussan Deyhim - "Heaven Dips"

  • Sharpshooters - "Lifted"

  • DJ Krush - "On the Dub-ble"

  • Goo (a.k.a. Le Gooster) - "Double Trouble"

  • Sharpshooters - "Analyze"

  • Fugitive Elf - "Cargo" / Sweet Melody - "Sneakster"

  • Saru - "Posterity"

  • DJ Cam - "Gangsta Sh--/ Dieu Reconnaitra Les Siens"

  • Blend - "All That Dub"

  • Aesop Rock - "Skip Town"

  • Aesop Rock - "Dinner With Blockhead"

  • Jack Dangers - "Zxero"

  • Hanna - "Dark Plot" / DJ Krush/Toshinori Kondo - "Tobira - 2"

  • Cujo - "The Traffic / Sighting"

  • Quentin's Ladder - "Personal"

  • Illform - "Combustion Chamber" / Tranquility Base - "Omicron"

  • Nostramus - "Babel"

  • Quentin's Ladder - "Double Dragon"

  • Goo (a.k.a. Le Gooster) - "The OG"

  • Droid - "Alpha"

  • Spaceways - "Requiem for Ra"

  • Shinju Gumi - "Spyworm"

  • Russell Mills/The Edge - "Stone's Eggs"

  • Prototype 909 - "Understand"

  • Terre Thaemlitz - "Elevatorium"

  • Moby - "Myopia"