26 September, 2011@6:05 pm
“I’m back. I forgot my drum!” exclaims a crotchety old man at the beginning of DJ Shadow’s The Less You Know, The Better. While many cried that Shadow fell off with the release of his last critically-panned LP, The Outsider, the sample suggests that the old DJ Shadow we all know and love has returned, and he brought his classic, dusty drum style with him. It’s not the only time that Shadow speaks through his samples on TLYKTB, at the midway point through the album, an interlude suggests “Here we are now, at the middle….I have the feeling we are getting nowhere…and that is a pleasure…”, just before leading into the aptly titled track, “Redeemed”, a heavy Endtroducing-esque number. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, DJ Shadow is back.
While Shadow has stated publicly that he’s never intended to make Endtroducing over and over again, there are plenty of moments within the LP that evoke the moody, sample driven sound of his classic debut, such as the dub-infused “Tedium” or the hypnotically gorgeous “Enemy Lines”. But while the album does share his debut’s dark, weighty tone, it has it’s own identity entirely. Also tapping into his UNKLE roots, he has a handful of tracks with sung vocals, which come out wonderfully. The brooding indie rock number “Warning Call” (feat. Tom Vek) fits in perfectly next to the rest of album’s tone, as does the piano driven “Scale It Back”, which is executed keenly thanks to Yukimi Nagano’s breathy vocals. Other times, Shadow lets the sample collages sing it for him, such as on “I’ve Been Trying”, playing like some kind of Zero-7-meets-Bob Dylan soundclash, or the bittersweet “Sad & Lonely”, which meshes raining piano keys with some 70 year old vocal he dug up somewhere. His samples speak again on “Give Me Back The Nights”, which might possibly be a cry out to the fans that abandoned him when he tried to experiment last time around.
For such a long LP – 16 tracks on the original, 19 on the deluxe – Shadow stays on course the whole way, creating an LP with cohesion that flows perfectly from one track to the next, unifying several different styles and sounds into one integrated effort. Truth be told, he hasn’t quite had an album that had a groove this solid since his debut, and while this doesn’t try to be Re:Entroducing, it still delivers the original’s scary consistency. Whether or not the negative responses to his last album had anything to do with the sound of this LP hasn’t been revealed, but like the title says, The Less You Know, The Better.
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