For all its technical, sample-splicing glory, the reason DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... became a modern classic was how deftly it conjured the raw source code of human melancholy out of elements pilfered from a seemingly infinite pile of dusty thrift-shop vinyl. No other electronic musician had come so close in 1996 to investing this new form with such timeless emotion--as futuristic as pop gets, the album still sounds about 2,000 years old. So it's no surprise that the best moments of Shadow's highly anticipated follow-up, The Private Press, are its most moving ones, shots of seamless sonic recombination that throb with feeling: "Giving Up the Ghost" billows out from a tinny Philip Glass-like keyboard figure into a frenzied drum circle that can't seem to get any more anxious, and then does; an ersatz jazz singer tries to finger-snap his way through "Six Days" but ends up trampled by the heavy-hearted atmospherics swirling around him; the astonishing "Blood on the Motorway" imagines prog-rockers Yes as owners of profoundly broken hearts. Given the six busy years that have preceded it (and the success more streamlined knob-twiddlers such as Moby have enjoyed with an approach not unlike Shadow's), The Private Press doesn't resonate with the tactile snap of boundaries being broken like Endtroducing... did. But good luck finding someone else who can make his sampler so gently weep.
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