DJ Shadow: “The Less You Know, The Better”

By John Sosnowski in Arts & Entertainment

October 20, 2011

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Photo courtesy of Google Images

Legendary producer Joshua Davis, best known as DJ Shadow, is back with his first studio album since 2006.

For many indie music geeks, his name is synonymous with his iconic 1996 debut Endtroducing. Constructed entirely from densely layered audio samples, the album delivered an unprecedented sound

Songs ranged from pulsing hip-hop beats to spoken word to drawn out sonic excursions, making history for both hip-hop and electronic music.

Shadow’s new release, The Less You Know, The Better, is stylistically a far cry from his first album

While Endtroducing felt like a flowing, united effort, DJ Shadow’s newest album is a much more less unified effort, making drastic stylistic jumps from track to track with mixed results.

An overarching trait on the album is the prevalence of guitar and a general rock feel. This is highlighted most poignantly on tracks like “Border Crossing,” which feels more like a hard rock head banger than anything coming from a turntablist of DJ Shadow’s nature.

He at least brings variety to this canvas of guitar-driven electronica

Other songs fitting in this subgroup include the classically cool “I’ve Been Trying,” which is almost reminiscent of guitar-strumming soul icon Bill Withers; the tense “Give Me Back the Nights,” which evokes the grit of later Black Flag, as well as the over-the-top “I Gotta Rokk.”

Around the midway point, Shadow seems to return to the trippier sound of his past with the almost psychedelic yet nod-inducing duo of “Tedium” and “Enemy Lines.”

Several songs also introduce female vocals for good measure, while we’re also treated to a straightforward hip-hop track with Talib Kweli in “Stay the Course” and a potential club jam in “Run For Your Life.”

While the voice on interlude “Going Nowhere” expresses a fear that we’re doing just that, this album actually goes just about everywhere.

One might think that this variety makes for a cooler album, but paradoxically, this seems to make it a little boring compared to Endtroducing.

While the former was a spectacle that drew the listener in and hooked them, this album just doesn’t have the same powerful aura about it.

Less You Know is a solid album worth a look but not a classic, offering something to satisfy everyone but unlikely to astound anyone.

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