DJ Shadow's The Private Press and Manu Chao's Radio Bemba Sound System

DJ Shadow

The Private Press

MCA, 2002

With the chaotic, hyperbreakbeat of “Now Approaching Midnight” still ringing over
the field, DJ Shadow stepped from behind the tables and introduced himself. The
irony should have been apparent from the howls and applause of the crowd – most
of whom, it’s fair to say, were not expecting anything like what Shadow dropped
on them when they threw down for tickets to Creamfields. Shadow is a cultural
archivist, and the world he creates with his Roland and a couple of turntables
is as rarified and arcane as the vinyl world of the Soul Zodiac he remembers for
us. The crowd he stunned at Creamfields, most of whom were born half a world away
from the culture he represents, can’t be expected to call out Pharoh Sanders and
the CAE from a two-beat sample. Who would sense the jaded facetiousness of dropping
the picked out melody from Simon and Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa” atop a vintage
Van Halen riff on the album’s ego trip “You Can’t Go Home Again”? Who cares, right?
Everyone loved it, and the evolution of hip-hop was carried one small step further
– to the very heart of the sweaty, populist euro-dance scene. “Thanks for the
opportunity,” he said, before clearing the stage, and everyone cheered again.
The Private Press builds on Endtroducing with modesty, respect and skills. Without
this combo, Shadow couldn’t have pulled off Creamfields, but it’s not like anyone
who knew would’ve doubted him for a second. Pick up The Private Press. Dance and
decipher at will.

Manu Chao

Radio Bemba Sound System

Radio Bemba, 2002

The contradictions come thick and deep with this release – evidently the third
involving the very same songs that made Clandestino conquistadora and Proxima
the pristupni stanice for crossover anarchists. All your favorites are
here, and you don’t even have to cheer, the surprisingly dynamic live recordings
have all that and more. RBSS is somehow nostalgic for a summer that only just
melted, and if you made it to one of Manu’s impromptu performances around town
earlier this year you’ll shake your head again at the banality of the overtones
and the unadulterated, honest, toe-tapping goodness of the music. How can he do
it? How can this diminutive highwayman tear through “Que Paso Que Paso” like Ian
MacKaye on speed, then pluck away at one’s heart strings with “Minha Galera,”
pausing to write “See you soon!” on the back wall of Fraktal – all without coming
off as a sell out or a dope? Nevermind the how. RBSS delivers a Kingston-tinted
sound that decomposes into a supercharged two-tone. The record is a testament
to the people who travel with and play with Chao, even though he remains firmly
the center of attention, and you can hear how crowded the stage is. The reggae
influence, heavy on the first few tracks, springs from an undying admiration for
Bob Marley, Chao claims, but more important to this effort is the punk edge that
speaks of the Mano Negra days. Another studio album might well yield a more mature
attempt at bottling the intricacies of the Kingston dub sound or it might dig
deeper into Latinissimo, but one thing is sure: this is the last time we should
have to swallow these old tracks without calling foul.

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