Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shadow, Chemist, Hard Sell

So, I just got my first listen in to the new project from DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist titled "The Hard Sell." These cats were just in Austin not long ago to kickoff the Hard Sell tour, and even at a high ticket price they sold out one of the biggest venues in town. Way to represent, Austin. This live-mixing effort is the third touring enterprise that the duo have produced since 1999, and both previous efforts resulted in live discs. (1999's Brainfreeze and last year's Product Placement). As part of the live show they utilize multiple turntables, mixers and effects pedals.

When I got my hands on the Hard Sell album, for some reason I was expecting a high-energy mixtape of party music. After letting it spin for a few minutes I quickly realized that my assumption was completely off target. Instead of being one long continuous dance party, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist have crafted one long continuous listening party. It sounds almost like the two of them got together at some old abandoned radio station, found a long-lost cache of vintage 45's, and simply traded turns spinning their favorites.

Many of their selections are recognizable and will have you singing along, as they alternate between classic funk, R&B, pop, hip-hop...even a little world music. It sounds as if they were really trying to push the boundaries of their craft, which is often attempted but seldom realized. When you've been in the game as long as they have it becomes increasingly difficult to cover new ground and challenge your audience, but with the The Hard Sell I think they have done exactly that. The beats, breaks, and scratching you'd expect are all still there, but they're so seamless and timely that they coexist with the music in perfect harmony.
"As with Freeze and Product Placement, the emphasis is on the eclectic; funk and hip-hop are present as is some rock. But Hard Sell is leaps and bounds beyond the expected, on a musical basis, as well as technical. Now utilizing 8 turntables and 2 loop pedals, new possibilities in live mixing are explored, as doo-wop mixes with punk, new wave with grime, and everything in between, all with taste and humor. Several classic hip-hop tracks are even “sampled” (via loop pedal) and reconstructed in real time, from their original elements.

Forget mash-ups, forget computers, and never mind the MP3s.
This is real turntablism at its genre-bending, skills-dominated best."

Let it Marinate: