11 September, 2012@11:50 pm
DJ Shadow’s latest actually collects many of his earliest recordings. If you were digging in a record store in the early 90′s, in between the “rap/hip-hop” and “techno/house” sections was the “electronica/trip-hop” section, where you might find 12″ singles from a breed of instrumental producers like Coldcut, Automator, DJ Krush, and DJ Shadow. This era predates Endtroducing, when Shadow was releasing records for labels like Solesides and Mo Wax, just after being discovered by The Source Magazine’s Unsigned Hype column (yes, really). With Total Breakdown: Hidden Transmission From The MPC Era, 1992-1996, Shadow collects many of his early, unreleased recordings into one definitive volume.
As a matter of fact, the only “shadow” here of anything from the Solesides/Mo Wax era is an alternate version of “Entropy”, which starts the album off. The music of Hidden Transmissions isn’t quite as moody or heavy as what was found on his classic debut, but lays the skeletal framework for what would come later. Tracks like “Alright” and “Mellow But Chunky” somehow have a way of taking you back to that era of dusty fingers and dial-up connections, despite the recordings being completely new, at least to our ears. Gorgeous beats like “Intensely Hitting” or “Swimming Upstream” bring back memories of coffee-shop discos and 90′s nightclub balcony lounges, while “Affectations”, “Movin’ On”, and “Heavy Mood” beg for rhymes from Mos Def, Gift of Gab, or Dr. Octagon, respectively.
Fans that have been begging Shadow for another Endtroducing might find solace in this, even if it’s not quite as fully realized as his seminal, landmark LP. Wisely, Shadow cuts these minimalist productions down to size, with many tracks clocking under 3 minutes long, almost giving the album the flow of a DJ set from Shadow himself. While many times we’ve seen artists rape their “lost tapes” for compilations in this manner, it usually yields poor results. In the case of Hidden Transmissions, Shadow’s vintage demos are better than many artists’ albums.
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