DJ Shadow – Our Pathetic Age

0 Posted by - 20th September 2019 - Top Picks by 3DJ

DJ Shadow has got a brand new LP coming out on November 15th and he dropped us a line telling us how ecstatic he is and that it’s quite possibly the biggest of his career. We can’t wait to hear the whole thing drop…

Josh went on to say…

The title of the project is Our Pathetic Age, and it will be released on November 15th. Clocking in at nearly 90 minutes, and with over 20 brand new full-length tracks, it’s my first official double-album. There’s an instrumental suite representing some of my more ethereal and electronic leanings, as well as a vocal suite which leans more toward traditional hip-hop. It’s safe to say that whatever side of my musical personality suits you, you’ll find something to sink your teeth into.

Here’s the full tracklisting…

(Instrumental Suite)

1. Nature Always Wins
2. Slingblade
3. Intersectionality
4. Beauty, Power, Motion, Life, Work, Chaos, Law
5. Juggernaut
6. Firestorm
7. Weightless
8. Rosie
9. If I Died Today
10. My Lonely Room
11. We Are Always Alone

(Vocal Suite)

12. Drone Warfare (feat. Nas and Pharaohe Monch)
13. Rain On Snow (feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon)
14. Rocket Fuel (feat. De La Soul)
15. C.O.N.F.O.R.M. (feat. Gift of Gab, Lateef The Truth Speaker, Infamous Taz)
16. Small Colleges (Stay With Me) (feat. Wiki and Paul Banks)
17. JoJo’s Words (feat. Stro)
18. Kings & Queens (feat. Run The Jewels)
19. Taxin’ (ft. Dave East)
20. Dark Side Of The Heart (feat. Fantastic Negrito, Jumbo is Dr.ama)
21. I am Not A Robot (Interlude)
22. Urgent Important Please Read (feat. Rockwell Knuckles, Tef Poe, Daemon)
23. Our Pathetic Age (feat. Sam Herring)

As you can see, there are some familiar names here; Run The Jewels makes a triumphant return, and Shadow was overjoyed to touch on his Solesides/Quannum roots in working with Gab and Lateef.

Many of you have already heard “Rocket Fuel” with his heroes De La Soul, and wait ’til you hear what Nas and (past Funkdub guest) Pharoahe Monch did on “Drone Warfare.”

Instrumentally, I think this is my most cohesive and satisfying set since the What Does Your Soul Look Like EP. It includes my first-ever orchestral piece, entitled ‘Firestorm’. It also includes a song called ‘Rosie’, which is a kind of 3-part voyage through my evolution as a beat-maker.

I worked for over 17 months on this double-album, and at all times, felt a strong desire to deliver my best and most personal work to date. I wanted to seamlessly represent who I was, who I am, and who I hope to be, and for the songs to pack genuine emotional resonance. Despite the title, Our Pathetic Age is a hopeful, vibrant album. As an artist, I feel an obligation to interpret the world around me, and there’s no denying that these are times fraught with angst and pain. Yet, always there is light in darkness, and that’s the energy I have sought to harness. As always, thank you for sharing the journey with me, and I hope that the new album meets or surpasses your broadest expectations.

EDIT @ 30th September 2019 >

DJ Shadow Breaks Down the Inspiration Behind New Single “Rosie” in His Second ‘Sample Story’.

There’s usually a point on every album where most of the music is finished, but I find myself with time on my hands. Perhaps I’m waiting on a vocal feature to be turned in, or I’m psyching myself up to do a scratch part…but essentially, the project is 90% done. The singles have been flagged, the sequence of songs has taken shape, and I’m feeling good about everything. Yet, there’s still time to mess around with a new demo if I get the inspiration. If the idea works, perhaps it can still make the album; if not, no big deal, at least I gave it a shot.

On my first album, Endtroducing, the song that resulted from just such a moment was “Organ Donor.” Most of the weighty, sophisticated tracks were finished, and I just wanted to blow off a little steam. I didn’t think James Lavelle (who ran my label at the time, Mo’ Wax) would like it, and I was prepared to remove it if required. To my surprise, he loved it, and the rest is history. On this album, Our Pathetic Age, the song that slid in at the 11th hour was “Rosie.”

Because I listen to so many different kinds of music, new and old, and have worked with samples for so long, it has become difficult for me to find sample ideas that strike me as being truly unique or exhibiting qualities that remind me of nothing I’ve tackled in the past. Yet, the vocal refrain which starts off “Rosie,” is just such a sample. It’s from The Phoenix Singers, a short-lived African-American folk trio from the early ’60s. There are undeniable gospel overtones, and the voices are majestic, dignified and forceful; qualities I admire, and examples of which are in short supply in our time.

Deciding to try to build something off of the Phoenix Singers vocal sample, I started by adding a bunch of left-over drum and percussion sounds that I hadn’t got around to using yet. This formed the basis of the first of three distinct movements within “Rosie,” and in a way, this section represents my past. There’s nothing really groundbreaking production-wise about layering a bunch of different drum breaks, it’s something I’ve done from the beginning. So, knowing that, I didn’t want to leave the song there.

As the father of two daughters who dance semi-professionally, I began to imagine taking the song into different expressive directions, changing the sonic palette each time. I tried to visualize how the music could inform different styles of dance, from the conventional into the contemporary. This concept defines the shift into movement number two.

The third and final section is perhaps most representative of the rest of the album, with the emphasis being on melody rather than beats or tricky programming. The vocal sample is stretched and manipulated beyond recognition, reintroduced as a new melodic basis. No less than eight other instruments are written for, resulting in a (hopefully) satisfying and resonant conclusion. “This part gets me in the feels,” says mix collaborator NastyNasty, which I take as a significant compliment.

So there you have the story of how “Rosie,” the final song to be created for the album, came to be. No big guest stars, no catchy hooks…just me having fun with a great sample. That it was chosen by the label to be the song to mark the project announce is fitting; it represents where I’ve come from, where I’m at, and just maybe, where I’m headed. And hey, even if not, it was nice to blow off a little steam.

– DJ Shadow, September 2019

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