In Tune and On Time (Geffen)
by Tim Den
In 2002, turntablist deity DJ Shadow upped the ante of his live shows by incorporating not just an elaborately timed video sequence into his routine, but a strict regiment of “in tune and on time” upon his mixes. Every segue, every scratch, every beat had to not only be calculatedly matched up in tempo, but intonation as well. Can you say daunting? It took Shadow and his team of visualists three months to streamline a setlist, and another few months’ worth of touring before all the glitches were ironed out. By the time The Private Press tour arrived in London for a two-night stint at Brixton Academy, In Tune and On Time was ready to be documented.
And what an experience to take in! As if his intuition as a tuneful, soulful DJ wasn’t already enough, Shadow expands upon his existing songs by jumping between four turntables and a sampler to add a plethora of accents and detours. Three vertical screens behind him dance with each break and interlude, emoting in sights what Shadows’ hands are creating aurally. The depth that this combination creates absolutely entrances the sold-out audience, as some stare helplessly transfixed at the stage while others throw themselves around like possessed ghouls. Sure, the pounding drums and their immediacy are the easiest to focus on and groove to, but the minute details fluttering every half a second boggles the analytical mind if one chooses to pay attention to ’em. Shadow flips switches between tables, scratches, triggers voices, drum pads, and delays like a conductor who’s also playing every instrument in the orchestra, scientifically controlling the procession with jaw-dropping precision and grace. And the fact that such micromanaging results in bad ass, visceral music is proof enough that rock – in the face of artists such as Shadow – is a boring dinosaur.
Aside from the Brixton Academy sets, In Tune and On Time also includes extra footage of Shadow jamming with good friends (and Jurassic 5 members) DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist, as well as trailers for the Keepintime and Product Placement DVDs. In the 21st century musical landscape, where machines are capable of translating human expression with more unique, envelope-pushing methods than the same ol’ six strings, DJ Shadow and his peers are frontiersmen for a whole new generation.