DJ Shadow - The Less You Know, the Better

by Sarah Allen Rating:9.5 Release Date:2011-10-03

"I'm back," says a man proudly booming out of the speakers introducing the opening track to DJ Shadow's latest endeavour. Mr Shadow is indeed back, and with a serious kick to the unmentionables. The Less You Know, the Better is the musical equivalent of someone with bipolar. In a good way. It begins on a high, becoming progressively introspective, concluding with the down-tempo bonus track '(Not So) Sad and Lonely'. Josh Davis - as Shadow's passport will attest - achieves this by mixing hip hop (in his inimitable way) with metal with rock; blues with pop; and folk with jazz. And it works.

While this album maintains DJ Shadow's characteristic sampling style (opener 'Back to Front' would not have been incongruous on The Private Press, while album highlight 'I've Been Trying' is 'Six Days' long-lost, mature brother), his sound has definitely evolved. Disparate cameos from artists like rapper Talib Kweli on 'Stay the Course' and Tom Vek for rock-dance anthem 'Warning Call' are testament to this.

'Border Crossing' should be used to accompany a heavyweight wrestler to the ring, it's 80s-style metal guitar riff and epic drum set doing a great job of achieving the proverbial hyping up of oneself. 'Run for Your Life' is another track full of so much energy, there's nothing else for it but to do just that. And, if you listen closely, you can almost hear Kanye West throwing a tantrum for being pipped to the sampling post on this one.

The darkest moment of the album comes from the psychotic 'Give Me the Nights', under no circumstances to be confused with George Benson's funky 80s hit. DJ Shadow's 'Night' - featuring what sounds like someone reading a poem - contains a constant sense of foreboding, with a bass to erect the hairs on the back of your neck, not to mention a blood-curdling howl from said poet pleading with nothing in particular to "Bring me back the LONG, CRUEL, ENDLESS NIGHT".

Although hip hop and rock pervade the album, it also contains much softer sounds, provided beautifully with standout track 'Scale It Back', featuring the Bourbon-smooth tones of Little Dragon. 'Redeemed' is another slow track. You imagine Janis Joplin would have sung on this with the Shadow were she still alive; it has that Woodstock-meets-2011 feel to it.

To simply say "It's brilliant" would be a cop-out; but would that be so wrong? As said in the album's interval 'Going Nowhere': "More and more, I have the feeling that we are getting nowhere. And that is a pleasure."

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