Sunday, 9 October 2011

Recommended music: 'The Less You Know, The Better' by DJ Shadow

2 years in the making, in this record Josh Davis has tried to ignore the naysayers and critics and just get on with putting everything into an album that reflects the true spirit of DJ Shadow and everything he likes about music right now. The result is a much more cohesive record than his previous release 'The Outsider', one that's not afraid to take risks and experiment with musical styles but which always always feels like it's working to the same goal.

So it is you get old school hip hop on 'Back to Front (Circular Logic)', followed immediately by the rock guitars and posturing of 'Border Crossing'. Then 'Stay The Course' features raps by Posdnous and Talib Kweli, but hot on its heels is followed by the guitars and flutes of ballad 'I've Been Trying'. The pattern of contrasts is repeated, as the mournful piano ballad 'Sad and Lonely' is followed by the rocky 'Warning Call', which features Tom Vek and sounds not unlike 'The Saints Are Coming'. The next 3 tracks - 'Tedium', 'Enemy Lines' and 'Going Nowhere' could easily be on Shadow's debut, while 'Redeemed' takes another haunting female vocal sample and backs it with some of his classic hip-hop riffs.

'Run For Your Life' is a frantic track in the vein of 'Mashin' On The Motorway', completely the opposite of the psycho-beat-poetry of 'Give Me Back The Nights' which comes next and which is a bit freaky. 'I Gotta Rokk' soon restores the uplifting mood - doing exactly what it does on the tin, this is easily the best marriage of rock and hip-hop since Aerosmith & Run DMC made 'Walk This Way'. The least successful track on the album is 'Scale It Back', which features the vocals of Little Dragon but which is just a little bit dull. 'Circular Logic (Front To Back)' is more classic Shadow sampling, and then the record closes with '(Not So) Sad and Lonely', a reprise of the earlier track with less vocals but which, too me, in fact sounds even sadder than its first incarnation.

Interestingly, if you play the album through just listening to the tracks credited to DJ Shadow (i.e. without the guest vocalists) it sounds a lot more like a sequel to 'Endtroducing', whereas with the other tracks it's a bit of a hybrid from all 3 previous albums. Nevertheless, whichever way you hear it, it's an enjoyable listen and one which should ensure that Shadow remains in people's memories and adds to the credit he should receive for being one of hip-hop's true heroes.

'The Less You Know, The Better' Radio Ad by djshadow

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