DJ Shadow: The Private Press

DJ Shadow: The Private Press

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DJ Shadow

Album: The Private Press
Label: MCA

For an album so rightly ensconced in the '90s musical canon, DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... hasn't aged particularly well. One of those records that sounds far better in the imagination than on an actual stereo, Shadow's 1996 debut has been partially diluted by the symphonic beat-collage culture it helped spawn. But the album's frayed edges and yellow corrosion also speak to Shadow's best attribute as an artist: His music has little to do with details, and everything to do with the sort of overwrought fantasies it deftly inspires. Shadow's ability to draw big conclusions from stark source material makes a huge, dramatic sweep across The Private Press, a prickly record that eventually reveals the brains behind its initially forbidding brawn. The first proper follow-up to Endtroducing... (excepting side-project digressions with U.N.K.L.E., Brainfreeze, Product Placement, and Quannum), the new album starts with the tentative brooder "Fixed Income," which sounds more like Tortoise-brand post-rock than the underground hip-hop and electronica that Shadow was supposed to break back in his early days. As snarling guitars and portentous harpsichords lift the song off its funkless base, though, The Private Press begins a slow march from pent-up frustration to ecstatic whoosh. "Giving Up The Ghost" throws a wide net over pizzicato-picked strings and strutting breakbeats, bashing its way toward a resolution that's both sad and cathartic. Shadow hangs his head on a few mellow trip-hop strolls ("Six Days," "Mongrel...," "...Meets His Maker"), but most of the sample-identified "side two" fans out into sly breakbeat fun. Following the painfully ill-executed IDM bluster of "Monosylabik," Shadow casts off his worry and takes a bitching '60s hot-rod ride on "Mashin' On The Motorway" and "Blood On The Motorway," an elided diptych that packs a movie's worth of narrative into 12 minutes of radio-dream theatrics. At first, The Private Press plays like a bland kiss-off to followers expecting a big-time event record. But once its blood has time to flow, the album swells from a strained capillary to a coursing vein.

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