Creatively spinning music for over twenty years, DJ Shadow is well known for his bending of genres and deep use of samples. His recent fourth studio album The Less You Know, the Better was released this week after a five year hiatus and has been raved about by rock, hip hop, and electronic fans alike.
NorCal local Josh Davis, better known as DJ Shadow, is one of the founders of creative hip hop beatmaking and his unique sample-heavy style can be mimicked by very few. What would be simple noises to some, he brings together to create music designed to give the listener a complete sensory experience, taking them to another place entirely.
hitting drums over spacey alien noises, two elements present in many of the album’s sixteen tracks. Guitars – whether acoustic, steel, bass, or your typical electric – are prominent throughout the album but always come paired with other elements so as not to define any track by a single genre. Despite clear hip hop roots, you’ll also recognize numerous string instruments, synths of all kinds, harmonicas, and various drums sprinkled throughout songs that could be categorized as just about anything, not limited to surf rock, reggae, rockabilly, or others.
While only about half of the tracks contain vocals, those that do are appropriately curated and work ideally with the melodies – from Talib Kweli rhyming over dubbed out afrofunk on “Stay the Course” to Little Dragon providing bouncy syncopation along with the slower, melodic sounds of “Scale it Back.” Several contain spoken word vocals which, while not the most entertaining, actually compliment the accompanying songs.
The entire album is like a complicated puzzle comprised of beats, instruments, and vocals arranged perfectly that can only be completed by DJ Shadow himself, one of the true masters of this art. Every modern style of music can be found in at least one of the songs, and a true music lover’s album has been created.
Stream the album in it’s entirety thanks to NPR.
DJ Shadow performs at The Regency Ballroom on Friday, October 21.