Date: 1st July 2004
History moves damn fast. So fast, that if a week is indeed a long time
in politics, then it's an ice age in dance music, where genres subdivide
into ever-mutating micro genres quicker than you can say 'white label.'
By its very definition, the cutting edge has a poor relationship with
longevity - which makes the widespread acknowledgement and continuing
influence of 'cinematic hip hop' as a contemporary genre in its own
right all the more remarkable.
In 1996, DJ Shadow (born Josh Davis) dropped his debut album,
'Endtroducing. . . ' and thus defined a whole new style of hip hop. A
million miles away from the dominant gangsta rap and g-funk of its day,
it was a mood rich and visually suggestive series of carefully sequenced
instrumentals, built almost entirely from old-school hip hop and funk
samples, pulled from the producer/turntablist's vast, personal vinyl
emporium and matched with beats. The album audaciously stretched the
parameters of hip hop, introducing it to a huge audience with little or
no previous experience of the genre. 'Endtroducing. . . ' was truly the
sound of a bench being marked.
DJ Shadow, as his alias suggests, is no fan of the limelight, but
even he is forced to accept his central role in the evolution of what
came to be tagged 'cinematic hip hop.' He acknowledges it right at the
beginning of 'In Tune & On Time', a long-form DVD recording of his
extraordinary live show (one of two consecutive nights in a nine-month
world tour that started in Manchester and finished in Korea) at London's
Brixton Academy on October 19 2002. "Welcome to my late-night movie," he
says, as he takes up his position behind the decks, before inviting the
audience to treat the evening as "a cinematic experience."
No other turntablist's live performance is quite so perfectly suited
to full-length film recording as that of DJ Shadow, for whom visuals are
almost as important as his music. The scale and sweep of the projected
backdrop images and complementary lighting is carefully matched to each
song in Shadow's set, where he plays not only in time, but - far more
challengingly - also in tune. The images are the work of designer and
visual director Ben Stokes, who in the late 1980s directed videos for
everyone from Megadeth to Public Enemy and whom Shadow met through Jack
Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto, on whose 1999 tour Stokes had worked.
The graphics used on the 2002 tour range widely in temper and tone, from
the animated collage figures in the funky 'Walkie Talkie' to the sombre,
grainy backdrop of the soaring “Midnight in a Perfect World” both from
Shadow's sophomore album, 'The Private Press.' In every frame, it's clear
that the images are not simply an accessory to the music, they are as good
as embedded in it.
"The previous time I had gone out on a solo, worldwide tour on any
major scale was 1999,' explains DJ Shadow of the Brixton show, 'and so
in 2002, the thought of just me up there with two turntables in front of
10,000 people made me think I really needed to step it up. I made this
big commitment to incorporate visuals and, although people like The
Chemical Brothers use them, I wanted the visuals for my show to be more
than incidental, psychedelic images. I wanted them to be more rooted in
the actual music I was playing and I wanted them to be symbiotic with
the sound, in the sense that the visuals are triggered in time with the
music - in this case, by three laptops run by Chris O'Dowd, who joined
me on the tour. In addition to the visuals, I was attempting to mix all
my music not only in time, but also in tune and that achievement I'm
equally proud of, even though it's obviously less demonstrative than the
"I've always had this feeling that if I know people are paying money
just to see me play," Shadow adds, "then I should be giving them as much
as possible in the time that they're there. I really did want it to be
the first truly entertaining show on a scale that would match any band.
I'm aware that you can be a very understated act and still move the
crowd with sonics alone, but on this tour I felt that my hip hop peers
at home generally weren't doing anything with visuals and because I knew
I was going to be touring the US as well, I really tried to put together
a show that was going to make it difficult for my peers back home to
'In Tune & On Time' proves DJ Shadow achieved exactly that. It
captures the extraordinary intensity of his live show in a startlingly
visceral and visually dynamic manner, recreating the feeling of being
inside Brixton Academy and entirely engaged, rather than simply watching
a recording of the event on a 2-D screen at home. As Shadow explains: "I
really wanted to surprise people who think they know what my shows are
about. I really wanted to wow people and Ben was the perfect person for
that. One of the things I told him was, 'Don't repeat yourself. Let's
make the visuals as varied as hopefully the music is.'"
That visual dynamism is apparent not only in the live show itself,
but throughout the entire DVD. It's divided into three parts, with an
'intermission' featuring candid, on-the-road footage from various
countries, vox pops with fans and a montage of crowd stills. Selected
images from the backdrops at Brixton have also been edited here and
there into the final product, to enhance the film's depth of field. Fans
will also delight in the DVD's extras, which include a sampler battle
between DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist and DJ NuMark at the Mayan Theatre, L.A.
And a solo turn by touring drummer Malcolm Catto.
"There were a lot of conversations between the editor, Erik Waterman
and myself about the pacing of the DVD," reveals Shadow. "We didn't want
to let all of the tricks out the bag in the first five minutes. When it
came to editing the footage and incorporating the visuals that were on
the screen, one of the big concerns was that it had to feel like you
were never leaving the stage. We very rarely cut to the full frame of
the visuals, because I never wanted it to seem like trickery, or feel
like disconnection. The way we got around that was by overlaying the
full-frame image on just five or maybe ten percent shading of whatever
was going on underneath it. You still see my silhouette and so you know
I'm still up there on stage. It's a small thing, but it makes everything
come together and makes the DVD work. At every point, you feel like
you're in the venue.
"At the end of the tour," Shadow notes, "we really felt like we'd
achieved something, so, more than anything, this is my way of
documenting the experience. I've never done a tour I've been so proud
of, such that I felt the need for it to be preserved in any way."
His pride is entirely justified. 'In Tune & On Time' freeze frames
history - just long enough for anyone not lucky enough to be with DJ
Shadow on October 19 2002 to realise exactly what they were missing.
Trailer,WMP,'Live DVD from DJ Shadow'
Trailer,Real Player,'Live DVD from DJ Shadow'
Trailer,QuickTime,'Live DVD from DJ Shadow'
Source: Press Release