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DJ Shadow - Our Pathetic Age (Album Review)

Friday, 22 November 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Derick Daily

DJ Shadow’s sixth LP is a double album, split between alternative trip hop instrumentals on the first disc and collab-laden crowd-pleasers on the second. It is a record of innovation and guile that ranks among his most accomplished work to date.

A standout on the first half is Firestorm, a quizzical piano study emboldened by a complex percussive arrangement and tidy strings. Shadow has always had the capacity to compose rich, cinematic work, but on this track, in particular, he manages to avoid sounding cloying or like he’s hankering for lucrative syncs; his music feels too strange and unnerving for that.

It is on the second disc where things really get lit. Rain on Snow, featuring Wu-Tang compatriots Inspectah Deck, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, is a massive party track with soul shaking basslines, hyperactive rhymes and hypnotic vocal samples.

Similarly, Rocket Fuel (feat. De La Soul) is a fantastic song and a proper earworm that shows off the New York rap trio’s world class intersecting bars. It's hugely compelling. In certain ways, the track actually feels a little throwback, with Shadow’s chunky crate beats and nimble scratching recalling an era pre-trap and autotune.

The reality is more nuanced: With the proliferation of trap production, and its move away from sample-led composition, ‘Our Pathetic Age’ actually represents a more forward thinking, less traditional form of songwriting. Trap loops, at the end of the day, are mostly made on piano keyboards...even the drum beats.

All of which leads us to some of Shadow’s most satisfying music in years. His passion for digging out interesting and unusual audio samples appears undiminished despite the bleakness of the title. Long may it continue.

DJ Shadow Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu February 27 2020 - GLASGOW SWG3
Fri February 28 2020 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Sat February 29 2020 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton

Click here to compare & buy DJ Shadow Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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