Third times a charm? DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist re-team once again for The Hard Sell, the latest installment in their non-stop 45 live mixes, following classic entries Brainfreeze and Product Placement. The mission this time around? To be the first headlining turntablists to play the Hollywood Bowl, the legendary 16,500 seat venue which has also been stage to The Beatles, The Doors, John Williams, and many other performers. Oh, and to do it with all 7inch, 45rpm vinyl, no 12inches, CD’s, or laptops allowed. Shadow and Cut’s set-up also included eight turntables, four mixers, and two loop pedals (for live sampling).
The Hard Sell’s CD release is a rehearsal recording of the live show, which comes packaged in a three panel gatefold sleeve, cut in the shape of a jukebox. The cheeky artwork features giant rampaging robot jukeboxes, shooting lasers and destroying puny, impudent Ipods. While completely pretentious, the statement that the duo makes with this artwork alone raises the bar considerably in regards to what they hoped to accomplish with The Hard Sell.
The mix begins with a Daft Punk-esque (but obviously dated), robotic rendition of “Rock Around The Clock”, that immediately sets things off right. This leads into a funky, doo-wop version of “Eye Of The Tiger”, sounding like something you might actually hear on a street corner in Rocky Balboa’s neighborhood. Unfortunately, this is where the mix takes an odd turn. While the first ten minutes set it off, seemingly getting the crowd hype, they kill the momentum with a series of slow doo-wop ballads, much more suitable for the closing of the show, not the opening. It’s a questionable move in which you can almost see the audience standing around in complete boredom, despite the creativity involved (of which the crowd are probably missing the point of anyway).
From there, it begins to pick up steam a bit, with a series of classic hip-hop beats, recreated live from their original samples. While this sounds a bit blasé on paper, it’s actually quite innovative, as the are found layering each original sample on top of one another, cutting in different breaks to remake the beat on the fly. Among these are Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By”, Nas’s “Made U Look”, and a number of classic De La Soul beats. From there, the mix sort of takes on a life of it’s own, going in several different directions, with rock and funk tracks mixed in, most notably uncovering the sample will.i.am used for Justin Timberlake’s “Damn Girl” and a garage band cover of The Doors’ “Break On Through”
While their love for digging, not to mention spinning clunky, big-hole 7inches is appreciated, (especially in today’s age of Serato Scratch Live software), unfortunately, The Hard Sell is just that. It doesn’t hold up quite as well as Brainfreeze or Product Placement, due to it’s strange arrangement and odd pacing. That being said, The Hard Sell is a creative piece of work, but ultimately does little to support the duo’s lofty ideals in the analog vs. digital argument. – D.T. Swinga
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