Ferguson Sowell is a man on a mission to transcend himself. In
his guise as DJ Darky, he's looking to lay down the perfect beat, "the
confluence of melody and groove that transcends mood and time." But his
quest is motivated as much by a need to obliterate sound as to create it. DJ
Darky has a phonographic memory. "I remember everything I've ever heard. Every
dropped nickel, raindrop drip-drop, sneaker squeak, and sheep bleat," he
tells us. "It's like my entire life is a song I can't get out of my head."
And so he painstakingly composes a two-minute-and-forty-seven-second piece, a
song to pause sound and broadcast his individuality, made up out of "Brando's
creaking leather jacket in The Wild One
, a shopping cart tumbling down
the concrete banks of the L.A. River, Mothers of Invention, a stone skimming
across Diamond Lake, the flutter of Paul Newman's...
Beyond the Book
Unless you are exactly as hip as Paul Beatty, Slumberland
is rife with
Googlable moments, as DJ Darky riffs about jazz and hip-hop and funk. Here are
some of the references that anchor the plot.
Sixteen hours into a marathon rave, DJ Darky reaches into his crate and pulls
out a record that a fellow DJ fears will stir a riot among a bunch of white frat
boys expecting industrial music rather than South Bronx hip-hop. The song that
he plays is Stezo's "It's My Turn," which was all over the radio in the summer
of 1989. It seems utterly quaint and tame in retrospect: "Extra extra, read all
about it / It's me Stezo that has been doubted / I came to make you move and
groove and get down / There's no way that the crowd can sit down." To view the
video (lots of...