'Soaring beats, breaks and visuals from DJ Shadow in Camden'

DJ Shadow at Koko, Camden

DJ Shadow at Koko, Camden - Credit: André Langlois

DJ Shadow
Koko, June 5, 2022
****

Instrumental hip hop for a Sunday evening? The hugely influential DJ Shadow was at Koko this week thanks to "my guy at Charles de Gaulle", who helped the crew negotiate the challenges of modern air travel that day (June 5).  

It is more than 25 years since the landmark album Entroducing..... opened up hip hop to a new audience of electronica and indie fans, slotting nicely into the groove left by big beat (Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim). The audience at Koko was noticeably from that generation.  

This off show was originally conceived to promote the 2019 album Our Pathetic Age, but then the obvious happened.

The album features appearances from some of the biggest names in rap – Nas, Run the Jewels,  Ghostface Killah, De La Soul, Raekwon – but there are no guest appearances here (maybe they're all stuck in Paris).

Instead what we get is live mixing, scratching and a couple of minutes of percussion (if that was the issue at the airport, I'm not sure it was worth packing).

Shadow is surrounded by what he calls the "Shadowsphere", actually a circular projection screen, with a gauze front, onto which computer animations create a near-3D impression. It's like watching every video game trailer of the last two decades spliced together, but far better than that sounds.

Cityscapes, fires and highways fly by, and the flat cylinder design makes a slit animation particularly effective.

DJ Shadow at Koko, Camden

DJ Shadow in the "Shadowsphere" at Koko, Camden - Credit: André Langlois

With the remixed songs captioned in the bottom right, it is also a throwback to '90s MTV.

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Slingblade is soaring and broken, while Scale it Back, with Little Dragon is silky pop.

Richard Ashcroft’s voice drops in for a cameo on Lonely Soul from the first Unkle album.

But it is the glorious voice of Future Islands’ Samuel T Herring which really lifts things on Our Pathetic Age’s title track.

In a contrast of styles, Nobody Speak kicks in with a guitar sample from Caterina Valente's Ol' Man River before Run the Jewels get their filthy rhymes on some huge beats.

DJ Shadow at Koko, Camden

DJ Shadow at Koko, Camden - Credit: André Langlois

Shadow claims never to have wanted to be a performer, but he's a charmer on stage and fans would lap up an on-stage tour of his record collection.

Incidentally, I'd like to pitch "My Guy At Charles de Gaulle" as the next album title. Keep it.

DJ Shadow at Koko, Camden

DJ Shadow at Koko, Camden - Credit: André Langlois