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Just Your Favorite DJ Saviour

DJ Shadow
(Mo Wax / FFRR)

When DJ Shadow launched onto the scene in 1995 or so with his batch of interesting 12 inches (compiled under the Preemptive Strike release), he shot into the stratosphere faster than nearly any DJ before him at that time. While others were mixing records and turntablism was already starting to get huge, Shadow carved up beats and actually created original songs out of pilfered noises and some programming on his own part. When Entroducing... rolled around, many were wondering whether he was the saviour of hip-hop.

Since that time, he's worked on the UNKLE project, as well as on the soundtrack for a documentary film, but seems to have been hiding out and perhaps biding his time before he drops another big release. But, enough talk about now, let's get back to the album at hand. Like the work that he released early on, Shadow tends to favor a more downtempo groove and dark, moody sounding tracks, although that doesn't stop him from ripping it up once in awhile either.

After a cut-up, scratch happy opening track ("Best Foot Forward") of less than a minute long (that feels like the boastful antics of a turntablist competitor), the disc immediately drops off into an almost haunting piano sample and female chorus while a deep beat chugs along behind it, sometimes hiccuping into almost jungle fair. From there, the album absolutely takes off with the next track "The Numbers Song." With another super-thick beat (and a live drum sound worked into it as well), the track grinds through about 30 different samples of people counting until it breaks up for a touch of funk before heading back into the normal track.

From there, the album goes through a couple much lower tempo numbers that work pretty well, but don't contain near the amount of tension as a track like "Stem/Long Stem." Building up slowly from only harp, chime and strings, the song just keeps layering it on every so slowly until the beat drops like crazy and the track goes ballistic. Of course, then it drops off to a pretty horn solo and starts all over again On "Mutual Slump," he uses an unrecognizable sample from a Bjork song and crafts another huge, half organic/half electronic beat to lead the song along over goofy samples.

After a track that disses most of hip-hop with a one line sample, the album moves into quite possibly the best one-two combo on the album. The first single from the release (and probably most recognizable song) "Midnight In A Perfect World," has some nice female vocals and the usual great downtempo beat while "Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain" takes a track from nearly nothing again to one that's quite frenetic. One of the best things about the album is that use of tension. Shadow will give a touch of a beat, then drop it off and work another groove for awhile before throwing the original beat back into the mix even harder and with some combined new elements. Not only that, but he manages to mix dark and brooding sounds with big, hip-hop beats and make it all come off nearly flawlessly. If you're into hip-hop beats, but vocals sometimes turn you away (as is my case), this album will keep your ears happy.

Rating: 9