When I first heard Entroducing... by DJ Shadow back in the day (almost 6 years ago now), I was pretty much blown away by it. At the time, I wasn't really into hip-hop or rap, because of the gangsta style that seemed to dominate the lyrical landscape. However, with his debut release, Shadow took all the elements that I liked about the genre (fat beats, scratching, and melodic and sometimes dark melodies), then ran them through a blender and left the MC by the wayside. While that wasn't completely innovative in and of itself, he was the one who (for me and for many others) introduced a whole new style of music.
When a release that big comes along, damn straight it's going to be hard to please everyone with a follow-up, and Josh Davis certainly took his time contructing it. He hasn't been completely dormant in the preceeding years, though, putting out an excellent compilation of previously-released tracks (as well as a couple new ones) with Preemptive Strike, as well as putting out singles here and there, collaborating with James Lavelle on the UNKLE project, doing a soundtrack for the indie film Dark Days, and recently teaming up with Cut Chemist for the super-fun Brainfreeze and Product Placement mixes.
Also in the past few years, the style that he seemingly helped launch has become rather crowded with other players. With so much having gone on in that time, Shadow seems to be letting his focus drift even more towards the past and resurrecting and integrating different sounds into his repetoire. Sure, it's still the same Josh Davis behind things, but his seeming obsession with the dusty old grooves of vinyl (which very much made itself known on the aforementioned mix discs with Cut Chemist) not only includes weird spoken-word passages, but electro, 80's pop, and . Musically speaking, The Private Press is not only more ambitious, but simply more all over the place as well (which makes for brilliant moments as well as some inconsistent ones).
Within the first five tracks on the disc, the obsession with those worn grooves threatens to derail things a bit. Opening with "A Letter From Home," the disc mines an old-tyme record for a spoken word piece that sounds more like archival material than an intro to an album. The same goes with a seemingly un-related sample that falls just before the 5th track on the disc, in which all music again drops out for another random bit of dialogue. Luckily, the music surrounding these moments more than makes up for it. "Fixed Income" is the first 'real' track on the disc and throbs along with an almost trademark (by now) Shadow beat and a nice guitar melody. "Walkie Talkie" bumps things up even more with a quick burst into bradaggio turntablism with a huge beat and all kinds of boastful samples.
From there, it's all over the place again. "Giving Up The Ghost" is another moody instrumental that features some amazing, dynamic beat programming, while "Right Thing/GDMFSOB" mixes up cheesy drum machine beats, a cut-up vocal sample, and even a sample from an old Information Society track. Yes, the sense of humour is still there. "Mashin On The Motorway" also cranks up the humour factor, rumbling along with slick beats and the latter featuring Lateef the Truth Speaker on vocal duties while samples of angry motorists fly from every direction.
In places, the mix-up style of the album doesn't work quite as well, as on the somewhat plain R&B stylings of "Six Days" and the comtemplative "Blood On The Motorway," which mixes cheesy 80's synth sounds with new-agey spoken word samples and a plodding beat (which fortunately clicks up a few notches towards the end). In a track that mixes styles rather delightfully, the album closes out with "You Can't Go Home Again," which piles several completely different layers together into something that works amazingly and bumps up the energy level on the way out the door. In the end, it's an album that explores lots of different ideas, some of which work much more successfully than others. To his credit, Shadow didn't just create a carbon copy of his first disc, instead going out on a limb and mixing many of the styles he's toyed with over the years. An pretty darn good follow-up, but I bet the next one (hopefully it doesn't take another 6 years) will be even better.