In 1996, DJ Shadow gave us Endtroducing…, a record that would forever change how people look at the art of hip hop production. Blending everything from rock to jazz to soundtrack music, Shadow created a new vision of what one was capable of with just vinyl and a sampler. Though there have been many who have tried to top it, no one has been able to outdo Endtroducing…’s cinematic soundscapes, and it now looks like maybe no one ever will, including Shadow himself.
On The Private Press, his first solo record in six years, Shadow departs from his trademark sound on Endtroducing…, with mixed results. Where Endtroducing… was characterized by warm, lush production, full of pianos, horns and live-sounding percussion, The Private Press often feels cold and synthetic. Drums no longer sound as if they come from a stack of rare funk records, but instead as a programmed pattern, and live-sounding instrumentation is few and far between.
Also unlike previous work, tracks on The Private Press aren’t laid out into a continual flow. Tracks like “Mongrel … Meets His Maker” and “Blood on the Motorway” resemble hip-hop epics, while “Monosylibik” and “Walkie Talkie” consist of beeps, scratches and artificial drums. Shadow even uses vocals as the main focus of two songs, unlike his mostly instrumental debut.
While The Private Press isn’t as soulful as Endtroducing…, it’s still a very impressive record. Shadow hasn’t lost his knack for reconstructing old records into new forms, and repeated listens reveal a very diverse blend of music and rhythm throughout. For beat junkies everywhere, this record’s June 4 release date will be a holiday.
[Drew Atkins is feeling very zen at the moment]