DJ Shadow seemed intent through the years to simply create and let it fall where it might. He made music for DJ Shadow and if some folks came along for the ride, that was fine. If not, he was still The Man, simply on the basis of that first big LP.
The result of that charismatic lone wolf walk was a fall from popular favor; you can’t create a genre and then walk away and expect the folks to hang around. But he seemed to know that it’s not as if he were some trip-hop wind-up toy.
He’s still recovering from 2006’s, Outsider, unsatisfying in its pedestrian embrace of hip-hop. You knew where he was coming from artistically; it just wasn’t a good place and sounded ridiculous in parts.
And while Entroducing was a classic for its haunting pastiches and trip-hop soundscapes, The Less You Know covers those bases and more. And more. There are stoner-rock cops, torch lifts, soulful dirge, and jazzy chops. By nature, it should genre hop, of course. And aside from a hiccup here and there, it’s his best since the beginning.
“Circular Logic” and “Sad and Lonely” are both as prime a Shadow as you need. The former moves fast and light, the latter slow and dark. Pick out the samples. I thought it was the flanged guitar from the Nazareth version of “Love Hurts” at the start of “Enemy Lines”—but that’s too obvious. It’s Nazareth alright—the more obscure “Loved and Lost.”
It’s not all smooth—“Warning Call” should have nixed the vocal. Ditto “I’ve Been Trying.” Just because you have the material doesn’t mean you have to use it.
The reference points are all over and you can imagine Shadow cruising around with a backpack full of used vinyl. Who buys those Steeler and Offenbach records? Shadow does. [Roc-a-Fella/Verve]
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