Arguably but understandably, the amount of hype and academic discussion surrounding DJ Spooky's work has often obscured his gifts and abilities.
Strip away everything, even his own detailed essays and reflections on his work that form this disc's liner notes, and what's left is creative and mysterious work that stands up well on its own merits.
Not as sui generis as some would have him be -- his roots in everything from avant-garde classical music to the groundbreaking work of Jamaican dub are clear -- he's a marvelous synthesizer of varying trends, as Songs of a Dead Dreamer demonstrates throughout.
The "illbient" tag is one of the more facile labels applied to his work; the intent is there (uneasy hip-hop rhythms in ambient space), but not the true range of what he is capable of.
Instead, Songs for a Dead Dreamer is more a consistent and total exploration of sound and atmosphere, as much indebted to the effect of film soundtracks as it is to getting a good groove and beat on, and more.
"Juba," with its haunting string sample floating through the hissing, low mix, or the distinctly dub-tinged "Anansi Abstrakt," one of many such tracks on the album showing that touch, are but two highlights of many.
His DJing skills themselves aren't as prominent as are his abilities to arrange and create overall pieces, but when he lets the former through more, as with the key central scratch on "Galactic Funk (Tau Ceti Mix)," it's all for the service of further improving the song.
Said song also has some righteous synclavier action, confirming that it's not just music to relax to.