SHUFFLER 0037: NOT A MONGREL
Monday, October 13, 2014
DJ Shadow – “…Meets His Maker”
Do you want to know how you can tell that this is a safe space? Because if you’re reading this and you discovered DJ Shadow while driving your Subaru around town listening to “This American Life” on NPR, I’m not even going to judge.
After all, “This American Life” is a fantastic program, and Shadow’s music can be extremely evocative, perfect for dramatic radio. It’s songs like 1996’s “Midnight in a Perfect World” and 2002’s “Mongrel…” and “…Meets His Maker” that help explain why Andy Pemberton, writing about Shadow and others in the June 1994 issue of Mixmag, called the music “trip hop.” This stuff gets to be kind of folkloric after a time, and maybe somebody used the term before, and maybe Thrasher weren’t the first to coin the phrase “emocore” either, but scholarly documentation of underground music usually happens a bit late, so we have to trust what we’re told here, I guess.
What I find odd is that “Mongrel…” and “…Meets His Maker” are essentially different versions of the same tune, one being almost a continuation of the other, and they appear next to each other on the album. Both are incredibly downtempo and chill, borrowing sounds from Shadow’s massive record collection. There’s something cinematic in the repetitive strings, the house drums, the synths and piano and myriad other noises — it sounds like the soundtrack to a late night London spy adventure. There is at once an element of danger and an incredible calm. DJ Shadow is a versatile music maker to be sure, but this track finds him at the zenith of his trip hop powers.
“This American Life” listeners will be surprised, upon downloading the entire DJ Shadow catalog, to learn that this is the same man responsible for “Turf Dancing”, “Mashin’ on the Motorway,” and “3 Freaks,” but it’s that versatility that is part of his charm, even some of what he has to offer isn’t for everyone.