Saturday, March 13, 2010

DJ Shadow - "Dark Days" (LP Review)

"Dark Days" is an often overlooked single in the lengthy DJ Shadow discography. Released in 2000 while DJ Shadow was still enjoying the peak of his popularity with 1996's "Endtroducing....." and 1998's "Psyence Fiction", it is arguably the last recording he made in his "original style" and could easily be at home on any of his releases on the Mo' Wax label. After this point, he made a concerted effort to evolve his style: sometimes it worked (2002's "Private Press" and 2003's "Private Repress") and sometimes it did not (2006's "The Outsider").

"Dark Days" also serves as the soundtrack for the Marc Singer documentary of the same name. Technically, the movie featured previously released DJ Shadow music as well, but the "Dark Days" song was recorded especially for this film. The single has two versions of the song: one as an instrumental, and one with sampled dialogue from the film. The latter is especially chilling; it begins with:
When I first came down the tunnel, it lookin' dangerous man,
real dangerous.
Like, I'm scared.
You're on your own down here.
The film is a documentary about the homeless people that lived below ground in the "Freedom Tunnel" in Manhattan. The film is a moving, non-exploitative profile of the people that lived there and the resulting society of the tunnel, as well as their journey out when evicted. A mild spoiler: the film ends at a positive point, even if you suspect the longer story arc eventually won't.

The main sample for the song is Bill Osborn's single "Bamboo and Rice". I've scoured the web and I can't find the original source recording. Almost any thing you find about the artist and song derives from it appearing in "Dark Days". I don't even know when the single was released -- I would guess early to mid 60s given the surf-rock guitar sound. A nice pull from the king of crate digging. The DJ Shadow single itself is out of print and $20 and up is the going price.

Standout tracks: "Main Theme", "Spoken for Mix"

Skip 'em tracks: none.

Final score: 10/10

Bonus links: Dark Days trailer; Interview with Marc Singer, DJ Shadow (special feature from the DVD); first 10 minutes of the film.

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