Thursday, 13 October 2011

DJ Shadow - The Less You Know The Better - Review

This particular review of the new DJ Shadow record comes after a wave of other reviews which mostly complain about the fact that they don't consider it to be as good as his groundbreaking 1996 album 'Endtroducing'. So the fact that I still have yet to hear that certain album means that during this write up, Josh Davis' new record will be judged purely on its own merits rather than just being compared to his most acclaimed piece of work. Davis is known to have a majorly sized record collection and on 'The Less You Know The Better' he demonstrates this with many diverse samples from a wide range of old and often obscure sounds that are often given a fresh lease of life. It's definitely a varied and eclectic collection of tracks, sounds from many genres cut and pasted into a supersized mish-mash that knows no boundaries.

The funky march of 'Back To Front (Circular Logic)' showcases a wild mixture of samples in amongst the impressively precise yet effortless scratching. 'Border Crossing' mixes demented cluttered beats with dirty heavy metal riffage before 'Stay The Course' combines a classic funk beat with a smart bassline, however the tedious rap contributions drag it down. 'I've Been Trying' is soulfully charming with its flute, acoustic guitars, dusty snares and a fantastic vocal sample that leaves you wanting to track down the original song it was lifted from. 

'Sad And Lonely' works in a similar way, built on a heartbreakingly tender feamel vocal sample. But the accompanying piano and violin arrangement are so minimal that you wonder how much work Shadow actually did on the track. More rock riffs power 'Warning Call' but this time it's more like U2 with a disco beat. The guest vocals by Tom Vek work quite well but the song comes across as a bit half arsed. 'Tedium' isn't too different from the work Davis did with James Lavelle on UNKLE's 1998 album 'Psyence Fiction', and neither is the prime trip hop of 'Behind Enemy Lines', where everything seems to fit into place perfectly and provides some much needed breathing space in amongst the album's madder moments. 

Brief interlude 'Going Nowhere' is followed by 'Redeemed' where another melancholic female vocal is matched with a fantastic northern soul beat and chiming guitars. 'Run For Your Life' returns the record to a faster pace, coming across like the soundtrack to a car chase scene wit its frantic funk drumming, a relentless bassline, lots of wah-wah guitar and exciting percussion breaks. 'Give Me Back The Nights' is simply the sound of a repeated bassline and some truly deranged ranting which becomes more intense as the track goes on, ending in gloomy synth and guitar. Certainly not easy listening. 'I Gotta Rokk' is an enjoyably brutal stomp that sounds a bit like the march of an evil robot army who have a love for heavy metal and old skool hip hop. Maybe the track is marginally overlong but it packs in some awesome sounds when you turn it up through headphones.

'Scale It Back' is a stab at Prince-esque soul which doesn't quite succeed, while 'Circular Logic (Front To Back)' is another highlight and a masterclass in DJ cut and pasting, with some highly refined scratching demonstrations and brilliant use of random dialogue samples. As the album ends with distorted reprise 'Not So Sad And Lonely', it's clear that DJ Shadow has put together an eclectic and at times rather schizophrenic record that gets bored with staying in one place. At times it's messy, and often it's unfocused, but when it's good 'The Less You Know The Better' makes for a very entertaining listen. 7/10

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