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Pop Music Review

DJ Shadow Goes Multimedia

The enigmatic MC who defies categories adds film to his feats of turntable and equalizer magic at the Mayan.

June 14, 2002|STEVE BALTIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Moby might be the face of dance music, but Northern California's DJ Shadow is the closest thing the genre has to a rock star right now.

An enigmatic figure who is heavily influenced by hip-hop but is also a master at sampling and creating rich, atmospheric grooves, Shadow (born Josh Davis) has in a relatively short time created a category-defying body of work, including his landmark 1996 debut, "Entroducing," the "supergroup" U.N.K.L.E. (whose album featured Beastie Boy Mike D and Radiohead's Thom Yorke, among others) and his current release, "The Private Press."

Playing before a capacity throng at the Mayan Theatre on Wednesday, Shadow set aside his mystique to play MC in a multimedia extravaganza. A 12-minute film called "Keepin Time," featuring musicians ranging from veteran drummer Ernie Palmer to L.A. turntablist Cut Chemist, provided a perfect introduction to Shadow's 90-minute set as it hit on many of the key aspects of his sound.

"I'm trying a new style," Shadow said during the show. "I'm trying to keep in tune as well as in time." It's that melodic and harmonic component that helps distinguish Shadow from his peers, and it was in large supply during the Mayan set.

Drawing on new, unreleased and old material, Shadow unleashed his full arsenal, from the intoxicating soul-dance refrain "Lonely Soul" to the funk of the new album's "Right Thing/GDMFSOB." Standing amid what looked like a mini-recording studio with multiple turntables and equalizers, Shadow used the tools of his trade to replicate a range of instrumental sounds, introducing heavy percussion, horns and rich, melancholy keyboards during the new album's mournful "Blood on the Motorway."

Shadow showed his skill at switching moods. Although not especially noted for his technical DJ skills, Shadow laid out some wicked turntable scratching and, more important, displayed surprisingly fluid transitions throughout the night.

In fact, by the end of the evening, it felt as if there were nothing Shadow couldn't do behind a deck. Detractors complain that Shadow's reputation stems from the mystique he has created, but that side was de-emphasized Wednesday. He even thanked the crowd several times and seemed genuinely moved by the audience's response to his music.

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