DJ Shadow - In Tune and on Time LIVE

By Jack Lukic

DJ Shadow- In Tune and on Time LIVE
Geffen Records

In Tune and on Time has revealed an ancient secret to me--a dark secret from the deep trenches of musical history, a revelation striking the basic foundations of music: musicians are people who play instruments!

As much as we forget Hollywood celebrities aren't just people who get married to other celebrities and showcase couture but are also people whose job it is to act, equally we forget that musicians are people whose job it is to play instruments. Music fans have been put under the spell of the studio album: the thousandth-try work of faltering, sloppy musicians and the diligent editing of disingenuous, vocoding producers--where months of unwavering labor can be put into what comes in at barely an hour of music. Musicians are more than these parlor tricks, behind the smoke and fog, they are just people who play instruments (turntables et. all)--this is something DJ Shadow can do well. Nearly every sound that comes through in the studio he produces live and masterfully. No Boards of Canada'esque 17 note chords here, real sounds and samples--in tune and on time.

The set, recorded in London's Brixton Academy, spans through every subgenre in DJ Shadow's repertoire--from the old-school hip hop sounds to avant-garde breakbeat DJ Shadow covers it all. "Holy Calamity HBMS", featuring acclaimed hip hop producer Dan the Automator and Prince Paul, an artist whose history includes work with such bands as De La Soul, confidently boasts, in classic eighties style, "holy calamity/scream insanity/ all you're ever gonna be is another big fan of me/", enough to make even the most serious indie kid chuckle. Others songs work in their samples more surreptitiously: "Fixed", the opening track, introduces DJ Shadow with ominous voice samples layered behind strings that sounds ripped from early horror flicks along with DJ Shadow's usual assortment of drums and found sounds. "Mutual SlumpStem / Long Stem" opens with an Orwellian warning on the nature of criminal justice while an assortment of brass instruments drone behind leaving the listener with a deep visceral feeling (and an urge to overthrow local authorities).

There is a natural progression to In Tune and on Time. Most electronic artists have no problem mixing seamlessly between tracks, but where DJ Shadow stands out is how he improvises. Themes are carried over from previous tracks and nestle themselves warmly in songs you don't usually hear them in, buttons and knobs contort samples into fuller and deeper sounds than in the studio cuts. More personality, more passion is thrown into every note of the performance than what comes through behind sound-proofed walls. The talents that proves to me, that DJ Shadow is a true musician.