Written by: Andy Stewart
Never one to rush things, DJ Shadow (aka Josh Davis) has never delivered an album in less than 4 years. That said, it should come as no surprise that his latest offering, The Less You Know, The Better, arrived 5 years after his last album.
The extended breaks between albums isn’t as much a statement about his ability to procrastinate, as it is a testament to continuing to live up to his reputation as one of the premier creator of instrumental hip hop. Over the course of his 15 year career, Shadow has maintained a consistent ability to create mind boggling complex pieces of work that rely solely on rare, unknown, and unbelievable tracks from all sorts of sources, while continuing to push his music to develop.
TLYK,TB delivers what feels like an amalgamation of all he’s learned over the past decade and a half; providing deliciously haunting tracks reminiscent of Endtroducing… (like the opening track “Back To Front (Circular Logic)”) and The Private Press (tracks like “Sad and Lonely and (Not So) Sad and Lonely”) to more aggressive sounds that feel like continuations of The Outsider album (“Border Crossing” comes to mind). It’s apparent that he’s not trying to deliver an album with a set tone to it, choosing instead to serve up songs he likes regardless of how they fit together. At times it works, and at times they feel out of place.
The track “Warning Call” is a perfect example of a well crafted song, oozing 80’s New Wave attitude, that sounds fantastic on its own but feels isolated from the rest of the album. Which apparently is what he was going for; the description given to Pitchfork about the theme of the album was of “being partly about being stuck overnight at some airport terminal in Dallas and having CNN and Fox blasting my brain out for no apparent reason.”. It’s hard to come up with a better description that that. The songs come at you
When pulled apart the individual pieces are great, but when put together it’s information overload at times. In short it’s a great set of songs, but not my favourite album; it’s merely a collage that provides bits and bites of his abilities that at times works well, and at other times does not.