Tuesday, July 16, 2002
HE IS THE DJ
by Wayne Robins
I don't dance, except for a clumsy freestyle whose ancestral roots may lie in The Frug, The Waddle, The Swim, and other relics from the Great Sock Hops of 1962. And I haven't been to a dance club in years, especially the electro-techno-rave things that have made DJ's not just superstars of the nightlife but influential "creators" of current music.
So why am I so enamored of DJ Shadow? First, I'm not the only non-member of Generation Z that gets lit up by Mr. Shadow, aka Josh Davis of Davis, California, site of the University of California's great agricultural campus (with its great wine program!) near Sacramento. Greil Marcus uses all the precious column inches of his rarified Interview Magazine column, "Days Between Stations," writing about DJ Shadow in the current issue. Finding the monthly essay by Greil amidst the fashion and celebrity clatter of Interview is a little like thumbing through People Magazine and finding Christopher Ricks writing book reviews.
How did I hear DJ Shadow? The QuickTime e-newsletter (July 12) directed me to a listening party for his album "The Private Press." (MCA). Unfortunately, the listening party in which the entire CD was streamed had been going on since the beginning of the month, and I only got in on the last four days. (It expired yesterday). A few days earlier, I had become infatuated with a new shareware version of Dominoes 2.0 by Allgood Software. I've spent much of the last 96 hours in an audio-visual interactive trance, playing this great Dominoes game while blasting DJ Shadow from the computer's add-on speaker system.
DJ Shadow's pastiche of sounds are a wonder. The drums sound organic, that is, like a guy sitting at a drumkit in his basement. Traffic jam sounds build on hotrod guitar runs; songs begin sparely and build with the dramatic tension of good Hitchcock. (That's Alfred, not Robyn). There are rich spacy soundscapes with vocals that remind me of why people used to like Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, except that DJ Shadow has none of their pretense. A great DJ's mandate is to build and maintain momentum, and at peak moment, to make thrills emanate from the turntable. DJ Shadow knows.
(c) copyright 2002 Wayne Robins, all rights reserved. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org