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CD Review: DJ Shadow

Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 13:09

DJ Shadow CD review

Biz 3

DJ Shadow.

DJ Shadow

(Verve)

The Less You Know The Better

Grade: B- 

 

On his first album since 2006's The Outsider, Josh Davis (better known as DJ Shadow) blends genre and musicality on an album that isn't obviously cohesive on first listen.

By far his most musical album to date, the sample-heavy and overwhelming The Less You Know The Better has DJ Shadow playing with the light and dark of the soul and its corresponding sounds. The more concentrated and closer a light is to an object, the more pronounced its shadow will be – something that's apparent in the album's sonic evolution, from the schoolyard double-dutch catchiness of "Back To Front" to the heavy metal power chords opening "Border Crossing," the spoken word of "Give Me The Nights," hella funky "Run For Your Life" and the melancholic dirge of strings in "(Not So) Sad And Lonely."

DJ Shadow isn't quite selling the idea of "the less you know, the better" with the genre gamut he's running. "I've Been Trying" takes the approach of a strung out folk rock song with snares marching beneath a flute and jangling guitar and two songs later, "Warning Call" is a pulsing '80s synth pop featuring Tom Vek.

While Davis' trademark darkness never fails to haunt a track, the hard-hitting stealthy companion to Shadow's compositional thumbprint is lacking. It's easy to get lost or exhausted in the transitions between songs. With that said, standouts are the slow rockin' "Enemy Lines," the flute-infused hip-hop track "Stay The Course" (featuring Talib Kweli and Posdnuos), the smoky sweetness of Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano on "Scale It Back," the patchwork eeriness of "Circular Logic (Front to Back)," and the piano-driven reprise to the string-heavy "Sad And Lonely," "(Not So) Sad And Lonely."

Whether you get caught up in the shadows, the light source or both, the bigger picture of The Less You Know The Better will be something in constant flux for listeners, offering insight into some kind of puzzle box of music Davis has crafted.

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