The Less You Know, the Better
|The Less You Know, the Better|
|Studio album by DJ Shadow|
|Released||September 27, 2011|
|Genre||Breakbeat, instrumental hip hop, trip hop, electronica|
|Label||Verve, Island, A&M|
|DJ Shadow chronology|
|Singles from The Less You Know, the Better|
The Less You Know, the Better is the fourth studio album by American music producer DJ Shadow. It was released on September 27, 2011 by Verve Records. The album is his first of original material since The Outsider (2006). Like Shadow's previous efforts, the album relies heavily on sampling; the samples used span many genres and time periods. The album sees Shadow exploring many genres and production styles, from fast-paced tracks prominently featuring guitars and scratching to slow tracks featuring pianos.
The album received mixed to positive reviews, with critics being divided over its mix of styles. General consensus among critics was that despite its shortcomings, the album was an overall solid effort and an improvement over The Outsider.
The album was preceded by the single releases "Def Surrounds Us" / "I've Been Trying" (2010) and "I Gotta Rokk" (2011), as well as the EPs I Gotta Rokk and I'm Excited (2011). Contributions to the album came from a wide range of artists including Talib Kweli, Afrikan Boy, Posdnuos, and Tom Vek.
Background and development
After the release of his 2006 album The Outsider, Shadow brought his focus less on the production of new material. However, on March 7, 2009, he announced that he was working on music for a new album. Though no release date was given, he assured that "it [would] sound different from the last one". Speaking about recording sessions for the album, Shadow stated that "the hardcore work started just after Thanksgiving of 2009." He stated that he worked "at least eight-plus hours a day at least five or six days a week" and that the making of the album took about a year.
In the time leading up to the release of the album, Shadow would gradually release preview material from the album. The first of the new music to be revealed was a preview of the track "Def Surrounds Us", announced to be from his then-untitled fourth album. More material was revealed in an August 2010 gig in Antwerp, Belgium, where Shadow played some tracks he claimed to be from his upcoming album, though stating that the album was not yet ready and that he would continue working toward having it ready for his 2011 tour. The full version of "Def Surrounds Us", along with another track, "I've Been Trying", were also revealed by Shadow on Zane Lowe's BBC One radio show, followed by a limited single release featuring the two tracks.
Finally, on May 10, 2011, DJ Shadow confirmed via his Facebook page and official website that his new album, revealed to be entitled The Less You Know, the Better, was finished and that it would be released the following September.
Problems faced during the album's development included copyright and sample clearance problems, which led to the withdrawal of an EP released in support of the album, I'm Excited, and delays on the album's release. After these problems were resolved, a final release date in September was announced.
Asked to review the album, Shadow described the album as "beautiful", and stated that he hoped the album would be "timeless" and not restricted to any time period. He also explained that he wanted the album to be able to "appeal to the minds of people, and have them accept what I've done."
"I don't put out a record every year so I can see what others are doing and learn from that and see things that are happening. So I feel that a good record from me never defines 2011 -- it should be totally timeless and be able to live in any era. I think I've done that with this one. It's different at times [...] but I don't think it's a huge departure from anything I've ever done. And I think my fans who have been there since Endtroducing will really like this one."
Shadow has connected many themes to various aspects of the album. Speaking about the album's title, The Less You Know, the Better, Shadow explained:
"Any good album title has multiple meanings, and I like choosing titles where I find myself repeating it, almost like a mantra. But this one's partly about being stuck overnight at some airport terminal in Dallas and having CNN and Fox blasting my brain out for no apparent reason. I always just sit there and say, 'Who asked for this?'"
A theme that Shadow frequently connects to the album's title and artwork is the influence of technology in modern times. When asked what the album's title referred to, Shadow explained about what he felt was the aggressive marketing of technology in modern times. The Internet has also been frequently mentioned by Shadow when describing the album's title; he stated that he believes that the Internet "has been sold to us as our savior" and that as a person working in an industry "decimated by the Internet", he has experienced "a weird duality: the internet was supposed to democratize communication, but the opposite seems to have happened." The album's cover, designed by American artist Tony Papesh, depicts a smartphone painting over the album's title; the album's cover has been connected with Shadow's stand on technology, as well as single covers and other promotional art for the album.
Shadow explained that the album's title also referred to the experiences of recording artists in the year 2011: he described some of these experiences as "a bit silly." He also described the difficulty for an artist to gain attention, explaining: "It's really hard to get people to pay attention if all you're doing is putting out an album. It only matters to people if you're wearing a meat dress or slagging off your peers or generally behaving like an ass. So it's satire and I'm the butt of the joke."
On May 10, 2011, DJ Shadow confirmed via his Facebook page that the album would be released in September. The same day, he also released an EP called I Gotta Rokk, which contained remixes of material from the album. This was followed by the release of another EP, I'm Excited, on July 29, 2011. However, copyright problems caused the withdrawal of the EP and delays on the release of The Less You Know, the Better. 
|The Chicago Tribune|||
|Drowned in Sound||6/10|
The album received generally mixed to positive reviews. It earned a collective score of 65 out of 100 from Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Andrew Perry of The Telegraph stated, "The Less… upholds his debut's pioneering spirit, by regularly straying from the constrictions of classic hip hop, striking up Latin rhythms, folky guitar-picking and [...] a hybrid of hurtling breakbeats and heavy-metal guitar." John Bush of Allmusic called the album "one of the most entertaining albums of the year, with countless moments of brilliance". Greg Kot of The Chicago Tribune described the album as "essentially a mix tape of all his favorite moves, a grand tour of many of the genres and styles he's explored." He gave most praise to the album's "dark, shape-shifting mood pieces". David Amidon of PopMatters stated that though the album felt disappointing compared to Shadow's other releases, it was still overall a solid album, stating, "[...] anyone who picks up The Less You Know has a right to be disappointed, especially considering the name of the artist on the spine. [...] But what's sometimes impossible to put into words is how, despite all an album's shortcomings and stacked odds, it's still a perfectly enjoyable listen. He also said that the album was "a return to form for Shadow, his best work since [The] Private Press, and, most importantly, fun to listen to." Andy Gill of The Independent stated that the album's tracks "offer more guarded approaches to the sample-collaging process than on his previous albums", but added, "There's a pronounced shortfall of his usual joyous eclecticism here, with many pieces settling for basic repetitive sequences; some sound like little more than extended intros." Ian Wade of BBC Online stated that while the album "will only ever stand in the vast shadow that its creator has cast since releasing the unprecedented Endtroducing", "The Less You Know, the Better isn't a bad album at all, and will likely grow into something far more impressive, something that isn't quite evident on first play. Like The Private Press, it could be one the listener returns to down the line and wonders how it didn't initially click."
Dave Simpson of The Guardian described the album as "a hit-and-miss affair". Rob Harvilla of Spin similarly described the album as "equal parts frustrating and admirable", though also "nowhere near as antagonistic as 2006's hyphy-saturated The Outsider". J.R. Moores of Drowned in Sound criticized the album for what he felt was a lack of a coherent mood, saying that the album was "more like a mixtape carefully assembled by somebody desperate to demonstrate the diversity of their musical tastes." He also gave preference to songs on the album utilizing sampled vocals ("Sad and Lonely" and "Redeemed") and instrumentals ("Enemy Lines") over songs utilizing guest vocals, noting that they were not used to their full potential. He ultimately called the album "a highly schizophrenic collection", but also an improvement from The Outsider and "a step in the right direction." Sam Richards of NME unfavorably described the album as "sound[ing] like the work of a man struggling to recall his motivations for making music in the first place."
Singles and EPs
The album's first single, "Def Surrounds Us" / "I've Been Trying", was released in 2010. Early copies of the single were typically distributed in vinyl format, and distributed through various methods. Copies of the single were given out at an August 9 DJ Shadow show in Antwerp, Belgium. Shadow himself hid copies of the single, housed in generic blue sleeves, in assorted record shops in eastern Europe. Explaining why he chose to distribute the singles in vinyl format, Shadow explained, "I'd rather give away free vinyl than a download, because to me, downloads are so impersonal and soulless."
On May 10, 2011, Shadow released an EP, I Gotta Rokk, featuring the track of the same name and remixed material from The Less You Know, the Better. The following month, on June 7, "I Gotta Rokk" was released as the album's first single. It received generally positive reviews, with some reviews from sites such as Pitchfork Media saying that it showed that Shadow was still capable of releasing quality material.
On July 29, 2011, a second EP, I'm Excited, was released, and was promoted as featuring material from The Less You Know, the Better. The EP's title track was also released as a single on August 1, along with an accompanying music video. However, copyright and sample clearance problems ensued, which eventually caused the withdrawal of the EP and the removal of the track "I'm Excited" from The Less You Know, the Better.
|1.||"Back to Front (Circular Logic)"||2:05|
|3.||"Stay the Course" (featuring Talib Kweli and Posdnuos)||3:36|
|4.||"I've Been Trying"||3:13|
|5.||"Sad and Lonely"||3:10|
|6.||"Warning Call" (featuring Tom Vek)||3:36|
|11.||"Run for Your Life"||3:25|
|12.||"Give Me Back the Nights"||3:55|
|13.||"I Gotta Rokk"||6:29|
|14.||"Scale It Back" (featuring Little Dragon)||4:17|
|15.||"Circular Logic (Front to Back)"||4:55|
|16.||"(Not So) Sad and Lonely"||4:30|
|US deluxe edition bonus tracks|
|17.||"Come on Riding (Through the Cosmos)"||4:48|
|18.||"Def Surrounds Us"||7:38|
|19.||"Let's Get It (Bass, Bass, Bass)"||3:42|
- Sample credits
- "Warning Call" contains samples of "City Rises" by Saigon
- "Enemy Lines" contains samples of "Loved and Lost" by Nazareth
- "Redeemed" contains samples of "Andra Sidan" by Trettioåriga Kriget
- "Run for Your Life" contains samples of "What I Say" by Miles Davis
- "I Gotta Rokk" contains samples of "Hot on Your Heels" and "Backseat Driver" by Steeler and "Woman" and "Shake Yourself Alive" by The Harlemans
- "Circular Logic (Front to Back)" contains samples of "Disziplin" by Klaus Krüger and "The Question" by Spectrum
- "(Not So) Sad and Lonely" contains samples of "I'm Sad and I'm Lonely" by Susan Reed and interpolations of "Faut que je me pousse" by Offenbach
|Canada||September 27, 2011||LP||Verve, A&M|
|October 4, 2011||CD|
|United States||September 27, 2011||CD, LP, digital download (standard edition)||Verve, Island, Roc-a-Fella|
|October 4, 2011||CD, LP, digital download (deluxe edition)|
|United Kingdom||October 3, 2011||CD||Island|
|Italy||October 4, 2011||CD||Verve|
|Australia||October 7, 2011||CD|
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