DJ Shadow's Our Pathetic Age: What You Need To Know
Best-known to most casual observers for his groundbreaking 1996 debut album Endtroducing, an album which entered the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first constructed entirely from samples, DJ Shadow was one of a handful of artists to reaffirm the idea of sampling not as theft, but as an art form in and of itself.
His debut has attained cult status among hip-hop fans and has been regularly cited in any number of Best Of lists naming as one of the decade's finest, but rather than attempt to recreate that formula on his subsequent albums DJ Shadow has instead studiously avoided retreading old ground. Where albums like The Outsider saw him embracing live instrumentation and vocal melodies, others such as The Less You Know, The Better find him segueing straight from metal riffs into breakbeats and raps.
His new album Our Pathetic Age, his sixth full-length offering, arrives in stores this week and sees the DJ and producer breaking new ground once again by delivering the first double album of his career. Here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Following the release of his fifth studio album The Mountain Will Fall in 2016, Shadow embarked on a couple of rounds of touring that took in shows across North America and Europe, including a sold-out show at Manchester's Albert Hall that became the basis for a 2018 live album / DVD Live In Manchester: The Mountain Will Fall Tour.
Who's producing it?
DJ Shadow is dong all the work himself on that front, as he always does.
Any special guests?
None on the album's instrumental first half, but the second is packed with a guest list that includes De La Soul, Nas, Run the Jewels, Pharoahe Monch, Wu-Tang trio Ghostface Killah, Inspektah Deck and Raekwon, Blackalicious rapper Gift of Gab and Interpol frontman Paul Banks, among many others.
What does it sound like?
Despite its title, Shadow has described Our Pathetic Age as a “hopeful, vibrant” album and there are certainly moments where that shines through, particularly on the album's second half, where tracks like the De La Soul feature 'Rocket Fuel' and the slightly disco-flavoured groove of the title track give the album a really uplifting party vibe.
Elsewhere though there's plenty of the spooky, sonic darkness that you'd expect from a DJ Shadow album and that's especially true of the album's instrumental first act, but on Our Pathetic Age he's drawing on a very different sonic palette to his early instrumental work. Where Endtroducing had a light, ethereal feel to its instrumental tracks, the new album's opening tracks are much more synthesizer-led, dense and swampy, although later ones such as 'Rosie', 'If I Died Today' and the brooding 'We Are Always Alone' feel much more like familiar territory.
Along with the aforementioned 'Rocket Fuel', other highlights on the album's second half include the raucous opener Drone Warfare and the equally riotous Run The Jewels feature 'Kings & Queens', the excellent 'C.O.N.F.O.R.M' and the recent single 'Urgent, Important, Please Read'.
Does it deliver?
DJ Shadow has never been content to sit back and ride the wave of past glories, always restlessly pushing the boundaries of his own style, and though that can sometimes make for a mixed bag he's consistently packed each album with enough gems to make them all a compelling listen.
Double albums can be a risky business in terms of maintaining quality throughout and while not every track on Our Pathetic Age hits the mark, there's easily more than an album's worth of great material here and the standard of craftsmanship is every bit as high as you'd expect.