DJ Shadow DJ ShadowDef Surrounds Us / I?ve Been Trying (+ Neil Landstrumm Remix)
Few failures more flagrant than “The Outsider” stand out in history. Shadow, when he had to defend his third album, hid behind a “I don’t care what anyone says”, knowing very well how flawed it was in comparison to “Endtroducing…” and “The Private Press”, two records that still demand that you rise to your feet to show respect when they’re mentioned. The quasi-mystical, psychedelic and vulgar DJ Shadow of that album almost ruined a career that, up to that point, had been exemplary. What happened? In the interviews his discourse was that of a mystic, a new-born religious person. Maybe nothing had happened and he had just made a weak album, period. But with regards to his most loyal fans, those who want only the greatest exquisiteness coming from his sampler and not some common, cold appetiser, DJ Shadow still had a real redemption pending. These two tracks –pressed on a vinyl that is already sold out but which can still be downloaded at the modest price of £2.60 from the San Francisco magician’s official website, could be heralding his return through the front door. Are they a preview of a new album? Maybe not, for now it all sounds a bit embryonic still. But that’s not the most interesting thing. It’s the form, the sound: it’s DJ Shadow returning to his origins, with the MPC chock full of samples and the fingers moving over them like the legs of a tarantula, a return to instrumental hip-hop with echoes of old school electro and with the same amount of parts as a Lego box (as far as the seven minutes of “Def Surrounds Us” are concerned). Okay, it sounds like an unpolished demo, made in one afternoon and left as is until further notice, but it’s a re-encounter with the old Shadow. As far as “I’ve Been Trying” is concerned, although it’s a blues composition, beware: it’s unmistakenly reminiscent of the first UNKLE record, which he made with his bare hands –and which over the years has become a classic. But what it really indicates is Shadow’s renewed hunger for modernity is the remix Neil Landstrumm made on a second vinyl: the man has asked the Scotsman for a free re-elaboration of “Def Surrounds Us”, and he has given him a gloomy wonky track with video game melodies that will have the floor trembling. I’m getting excited.