tue 10/12/2019

CD: DJ Shadow - Our Pathetic Age | reviews, news & interviews

CD: DJ Shadow - Our Pathetic Age

CD: DJ Shadow - Our Pathetic Age

Omnivorous producer and DJ spreads his net wide

Algorithms rule, OK

DJ Shadow, made famous in 1996 With Endtroducing…, an album made entirely of samples, and the originator of a sound that was described as "trip-hop", sometime before it was attached to various Bristol sounds, continues to express his musical curiosity and eclecticism with wide-ranging connoisseurship and passion.

His new double album is divided between a series of characteristically diverse instrumentals, and collaborations with rappers and singers. The instrumentals - mini musical essays - vary in style from explorations of electronica and noise and breakbeat-driven grooves to moments with a jazz-funk feel reminiscent at times of Weather Report (as on “Beauty, Power, Motion, Life, Work, Chaos, Law”), and tracks such as “Intersectionality” that reference the robotic feel of Kraftwerk and other examples of vintage synthesised sound aesthetics.

The collaborations draw on an extensive and star-studded list of hip-hop and rap talents, from veterans of the Wu Tang Clan, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, or De La Soul to relative newcomers Stro (product of the US X Factor), the hip-hip duo known as Run the Jewels and autodidact Oakland singer-wongwriter Fantastic Negrito. There is plenty of imaginative and biting wordplay here, and a variety which reflects DJ Shadow’s unfailing ear for the top contenders and his ability to produce a musical context that gets the best out of his many different guests and mirrors their individual characters with sensitivity and flair.

Rap is often fuelled by anger and other strong feelings and this essential edge is reflected in a number of tracks that call for awareness and action: Nas and Pharaoh Monch flex their verbal muscles with irony on “Drone Warfare” alarmed at the "robocops in the sky", while on “Urgent Important Please Read”, rapper Tef Poe faces a future horror in which “the machines are going to win” and algorithms will rule our lives. The creativity displayed in so many individual ways on DJ Shadow's new collection offers an effervescent counterblast to the darkness and menacing homogeneity of the "our pathetic age" of the album's title.

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