Universally regarded as one of the most important figures in the world of instrumental hip hop and turntablism after having gained massive recognition for 1995’s Entroducing....., DJ Shadow (a.k.a. Josh Davis) seems in recent years to have been operating more in the, well, shadows of an electronic music scene that’s increasingly been focused on the newest and shiniest acts. Released three years after Shadow’s previous full length The Less You Know, The Better, 2014’s The Liquid Amber EP marks the first release on the music imprint of the same name, founded by Shadow himself. Containing two originals and a remix and running a little over eleven minutes in length, The Liquid Amber shows that one of electronic music’s most heralded performers can still stay relevant in today’s scene and hopefully is an indication of bigger, better, and more things to come in the future.
The EP kicks off with “Ghost Town,” which has that “anything goes” vibe that seems to be popular with today’s electronic music producers. The first minute or so of the track operates under icy synthesized tones and a severe, robotic rhythm before sampled vocals join in along with trademark DJ Shadow live drumming. After a brief pause, the track sort of hits the reset button by heading into slightly more ghostly territory, eventually settling into a thick, distressing jungle of bass drum accents, bloopy 8-bit melodies, and clipped dynamics. This final section sounds the most to me like vintage DJ Shadow: bleak but very melodic and sonically inventive.
Comparatively speaking, “Mob” seems a bit of a throwaway track, with a bouncy, gurgling bass line and twinkly melody. There’s not nearly as much going on here as in the previous track, and though the piece is capably produced and has some nifty rhythm elements thrown in, it’s forgettable and plays like an album outtake. The Machinedrum remix of “Six Days,” a track from Shadow’s 2002 Private Press album, is a much more compelling track, one which provides a nostalgic punctuation mark to close the EP. The original haunting trip hop track is updated for modern music sensibilities in this version, with pulsating background tones, more pronounced rhythm, and trademark dubstep wobble thrown into the mix. Following a lush, mid-track breakdown, a nagging, repeating alarm sound gives the track’s coda a sense of quiet urgency, but as a whole, the piece is chill and very much restrained, providing a sharp contrast to generally more aggressive electronic music noted producer Machinedrum is known for.
All in all, The Liquid Amber EP isn’t likely to knock anyone’s socks off, but it is a fine reminder of DJ Shadow’s talents. Shadow’s work since the early 2000’s has been both sporadic and somewhat spotty; he never has seemed to really get in a consistent groove after his initial successes both as a solo artist and as part of the first incarnation ofUnkle. With Aphex Twin announcing his first major release in over a decade (a release that I can hardly wait to check out), 2014 seems to be the year of the comeback for electronic music heroes. It’s about as good a time as any for Shadow to stage a resurgence then: with any luck, his new record label will be just the tool needed to stage a return to prominence.
7.0 / 10
Posted July 9, 2014, 8:22 a.m.
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist have announced the Renegades of Rhythm tour this fall, with tickets now on sale for most dates. The tour is focused solely on vinyl turntables ...
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