DJ Shadow, aka Josh Davis, is a man at the top of his game, yet to some of his fans that title would be meaningless because it can be said that DJ Shadow is in a game all his own, being a producer, DJ, and songwriter whose music is nearly impossible to pin down. He continues a rhythmic journey only a few before him have even dared. He smoothly slides over genre boundaries, bouncing from the club-driven bass and hip-hop hits to the moody atmospheric funk of the past. Now that wide range is celebrated in the upcoming album, Reconstructed: The Best of DJ Shadow.
The album kicks off with the clarion call, “The clock on the wall reads a quarter past midnight”, one of his better-known sound bites. The haunting melody that follows is like strolling though a beautiful fog of samples and bass. Delicate and precise piano notes drop like rain in front of your feet. This opening track, “Midnight in a Perfect World”, embodies a side of DJ Shadow that so many people rally towards. He’s created a technique of building a musical atmosphere that truly transports the listener, softly smoothing out reality and replacing it with his own worldview.
The haunting and melodramatic style continues in many of the tracks, like “Lonely Soul” (created under the group Unkle and featuring Richard Ashcroft from The Verve), “Listen” (featuring Terry Reid, previously unreleased), and “Redeemed”. They all weave an eerie sense of loneliness, but undercut with an acceptance of the future, kind of a “chin up” sort of outlook. DJ Shadow hides motivation in his music, a sense that there is power in your hands and an ability to change your destiny.
While that might sound a bit heavy and over-indulgent for a DJ track, maybe I’m looking too much into it, let’s look at one of his most famous tracks, “Six Days”. He created this anti-war track in response to where he saw the U.S. government moving and the attitudes in the country somehow falling in lockstep. The song resonated wildly with the mainstream public in a way his previous works hadn’t yet, like a banner waving through the radio waves telling people how dangerous things were really getting. In an interview once, DJ Shadow remarked that he thought he would never write a song more important than this. While he’s created great music since then, I believe he was spot on.