Despite his fairly young age, DJ Spooky (aka Paul Miller) has had a wide and varied career already. He'd released mix discs (The Necropolis Project), solo albums (Songs Of A Dead Dreamer and Riddim Warfare) and has even scored films (Slam). Not only that, but he's written for the Village Voice and several other publications and has even done art installments. He's always had lofty goals in terms of the sounds that he produces, and has written a lot of material about what he likes to accomplish with his music.
It shouldn't be surprising to hear that his work are greatly varied affairs. Not only do his mixed releases go all over the musical map, sometimes straying into nothing more than noise, but his original work varies just as greatly. After having said that, though, I can honestly say that File Under Futurism is probably his most cohesive and solid work to date. Sure, he still changes up tempo a ton on the work and can rip a fast breakbeat as well as a downtempo groove, but this work has a feel that some of his other work doesn't.
Of course, one of the very interesting elements of this disc is the concept itself. It's literally like worlds colliding when the first album-titled track starts out with a strain of strings while some strange electronic squiggling swirls in the background. Eventually, there's a bit of scratching and the track goes full-bore into rapid-fire beats and a slap bass while the strings still curl in the background. The short second track "Interstitial A" is more familiar as DJ Spooky territory in its experimental sound-collage nature, but the album goes back to more of a collaborative mode on the slow, thick beat of "Bring Me My Mental Health." This time, the strings play at a weeping pace while Spooky drops a clunking beat down behind it all and some spoken rhymes by Gnomad drift in and out of the mix.
After another short filler track, things drop downtempo again on the aptly titled "Downtempo Manifesto." A combination of stringed elements from the first track, loads of scratching, and skittered-out electronic bursts, it's another very solid listen. The disc really hits its high point, though, starting with the 8-minute freakout of "Experimental Asyncronicity." With soft strings in the background, Spooky goes completely crazy on the track with a drum machine that sounds like its locked-up half the time and a bunch more scratching. The two 'live' tracks ("This Is What Happens" and "Variation On A Freight Theme") are probably the best one-two punch on the disc with their mix of very sorrowful strings and nicely accompanying electronics.
As I mentioned before, it's definitely an interesting combination of sounds, and it works well on almost every track in which the two title artists collaborate. There are a few filler tracks and a couple moments that linger too long, but the combination of the classical elements and space ace beats is one that seemingly creates a new sort of sound. Sure, strings have been used in electronic music before, but you probably haven't quite heard it in quite this way.