Underground music is a term tossed around unjustly too often these days.
There are those musicians that try their hardest to be categorized into this realm of music for the mere sake of esoteric nomenclature. Then, there are those artists who have come to disregard the subculture concern of accolade and a conventional understanding of the music that they make. DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist are the latter of the two.
Mad scientists of their m’eacute;tier, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist or Josh Davis and Lucas McFadden, seem to out-do themselves every time their musical paths converge.
First, in 1999, there was “Brainfreeze,” which paved the way for change and difference, in the categorical sense, for the electronic music world. Then, in 2001, there was “Product Placement,” an upbeat mix of classic rhythm and blues remixed and asserted into new electronic beats and bass lines.
Now comes “The Hard Sell,” the precipice of collusion, creativity and continuity in Shadow and Chemist’s already intensely innovate relationship.
To try and understand “The Hard Sell” for what it is truly worth, you could try to go out and buy the CD from someone who has already purchased it, because it is no longer available in the normal retail sense.
Or you could bare witness, as I did, to this spectacle of musical madness and artistry by catching a live performance of “The Hard Sell,” a truly melodious masterpiece of rhythm and synchronicity.
At about 10 p.m. on Feb. 15 at The Wiltern in Hollywood, Calif., Shadow and Chemist took the stage to begin their two hour set of their extended version of “The Hard Sell,” that, for a disk jockey, amounted to nothing less than an endurance trial.
The setup of equipment alone was enough to deface the habitual hoof prints of your normal vinyl-fearing junkie. There were eight turntables, of which only two men would manage, several foot pedals, which would be used to alter and bend auditory effects, and a prized to own collection of originally pressed 45’s.
As the show began there was a disclaimer and intro of sorts. The intro did its best to inform you, the audience member, as to the importance of what you were about to see and hear. It explained the history of the 45 inch vinyl and then it went on to explain that all the music you would hear that night was to be played on originally pressed 45’s.
For a disc jockey, the importance of 45’s was obvious. For you everyday digital media junkies, this was a necessary introduction because of the fact that most people do everything digitally these days.
They started their set with some sound juggling and introductory noises that gave listeners a chance to settle into the music they were about to hear.
The appeal of a performance like this is the attention to eclectic musical taste and detail. Instead of mixing contemporary tunes with overtones of popularity, Shadow and Chemist chose to use songs such as “Losin’ Control” by The Fashionettes and their own electronically pervasive version of Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock,” to capture a sense of vintage musical trust and honesty as both listeners and creators.
The most genuine aspect of the performance, aside from the use of outdated and wrongly-forgotten classics were the techniques that Shadow and Chemist used.
From their ability to scratch and catch the right beat to the twisting and rearranging of well-known songs to their abilities to stay in tune, Shadow and Chemist proved that they have a keen understanding of performance skills as DJ’s.
Throughout the performance, Shadow and Chemist would stop and say a few words to the audience to try and capture the mood. They even stopped to give praise for the attendance of other known well known electronic musicians that were there to watch their performance that night, such as DJ Z-Trip.
It was a refreshing and simultaneously surprising sight to behold, seeing young people of a new generation dance to music that their parents most likely danced to years ago.
Whenever these music aficionados get together, they give you a sight to capture and sound to remember. Shadow and Chemist’s love of music came together one more time with a resounding performance of their time-honoring piece “The Hard Sell,” demonstrating that good music will never die.