Review of The Less You Know, The Better Album by DJ Shadow

Joshua Davis might not be a name many people would recognise, but under the alias of DJ Shadow he's established himself as one of dance music's most progressive and innovative musicians over the past twenty years. While debut album 'Endtroducing' has long been regarded as a groundbreaking record due it consisting almost entirely of samples, his subsequent recordings have seen him dabble with almost every conceivable genre from jazz and funk to ambient, folk and metal. It's perhaps not surprising then that despite being referenced as a contemporary hip hop artist, DJ Shadow's music is revered and respected by artists and consumers alike from all different corners.

DJ Shadow The Less You Know, The Better Album

Having received something of a critical backlash with 2006's 'The Outsider', Shadow has gone back to basics with its successor. Whereas 'The Outsider' at times sounded like a collection of half-constructed ideas rather than the visionary statements of its predecessors, 'The Less You Know, The Better' serves its purpose as a well-produced, and often unexpected box of disparate experimentation. While many of his peers and contemporaries are currently riding the fashionable gravy train known as Dubstep, Shadow can be commended for steering clear of the latest dancefloor fad. Instead he's once again rounded up an impressive guestlist of collaborators that only adds to the feast of intelligently crafted sounds on offer.

Indeed it could be argued 'The Less You Know, The Better' followed a slow process, having taken over two years in the making. Influenced by technological advancements as much as any other musical developments, its possibly Shadow's most diverse collection to date, and yet also quite seamless in its execution. Take the opening 'Back To Front (Circular Logic)' for example, which harks back to the big beat era of the late 1990s. Sounding similar in style to the kind of mash ups Bentley Rhythm Ace trademarked back in the day, it sets the scene for what follows. Or does it? Because the metallic guitar riff that punctuates 'Border Crossing' takes the record into an entirely different sphere altogether.

The rapping dual conducted by Talib Kweli and De La Soul's Posdenous on 'Stay The Course' returns Shadow to more familiar territories only for the atmospheric guitar heavy Americana of 'I've Been Trying' to move the goalposts once more. And so it goes throughout the rest of 'The Less You Know, The Better''s sixteen largely impressive pieces. The electro punk 'Warning Call', which features a cameo from Tom Vek, could be considered as DJ Shadow's first venture into the gaping hole left by LCD Soundsystem's current hiatus. Likewise the Miles Davis sampling old school hip hop of 'Run For Your Life' and soulful pop number 'Scale It Back' where Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano adds her luscious melting tones further spice up the record's varied concoction. Sure, there are a few moments where 'The Less You Know, The Better' slips into a lull; the midpoint of 'Tedium' for example lives up to its name, albeit briefly for its two-and-a-half minutes duration. On the whole though, 'The Less You Know, The Better' is an album DJ Shadow can be proud of, and one that once again highlights an artist who, when on top of his game, is simply streets ahead of the competition.


Dom Gourlay

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