DJ Shadow - Reconstructed: The Best of DJ Shadow

Image For DJ Shadow - Reconstructed: The Best of DJ Shadow

DJ Shadow, or Josh Davis, burst onto the scene at the ripe old age of 24. It was the release of his seminal debut album Entroducing….. that scored him, quite literally, a place in the dance music record books: recorded entirely using samples, Entroducing….. ’s innovation scored it a place in the Guinness Book of Records. His sound heralded the explosion of instrumental hip-hop, and four studio albums later, he returns with a compilation album, the aptly titled, Reconstructed.

A multi-instrumentalist, his experimental group Unkle (with James Lavelle) showed how diverse and forward thinking his musical ear was. Keeping himself busy, he released several mix CDs and contributed to various compilations along the way, not to mention founding labels Solesides and Quannum.

Shadow’s releases over the years have been few and far between – only four studio albums in 15 years. So with any new release, there’s bound to be a bit of excitement mixed with a little bit of apprehension. Shadow has always been one of those polarising artists; some call him a genius, some think his self-obsessed excursions into the experimental are his way of trying to stay relevant. Whatever the case, there’s no denying his importance to the music scene.

All the hits are there, although Shadow isn’t as well known for creating hit singles as he is creating magnum opus collections. Kicking off with the sombre Midnight in a Perfect World, the David Axelrod beat punctuating the laid back drum beat amid haunting vocal samples. Non album single High Noon switches pace from mid tempo rock to a pulsating dance beat. I’ve Been Trying from 2011’s The Less You Know, The Better features a yearning quite unlike a lot of Shadow’s earlier work, while You Can’t Go Home Again is a slow burner, building up pace to a backdrop of electro synths.

Davis has a knack of working with notable guests, and there’s an eclectic range included on here. Scale it Back slows things down with ethereal vocals from Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon and previously unreleased Stem showcases the bluesy tones of Terry Reid. Chris James from UK alternative band Stateless appears on the soaring You Made It, as does the surprising inclusion of The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft on Lonely Soul from Unkle’s Psyence Fiction.

Other highlights include the frenetic myriad of sounds on Organ Donor (Extended Overhaul Re-Edit), the Sade-esque Won’t You Be, the instrumental Blood on the Motorway and of course, the eternal longing in the immortal line “tomorrow never comes until it’s too late” from the notable Six Days.

Being as well regarded in musical circles with as lengthy a career as DJ Shadow, it’s hard to find fault with the tracks cherry picked for this release. Featuring a broad selection of genres, my only criticism is that Shadow’s previous albums were like soundscapes, best listened to in one sitting. Breaking up the tracklisting from different albums somewhat dilutes the initial intention that the artist had when making the record. Regardless, it’s a comprehensive look into the library of one of hip-hop and music’s most talented and creative personalities.

Reconstructed is out now on Universal Island.

8/10 stars

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