No matter what DJ Shadow does he will always have 1996 classic Endtroducing ... as his benchmark. It's one of those albums that you imagine will never be beaten. So, at least on his latest album, he topples his patchy previous effort, The Outsider.
Enemy Lines is the long prowler of the album (like What Does Your Soul Look Like off Endtroducing ... only not quite as seductive), and the beautifully regal Redeemed reminds of the mid-90s when not only DJ Shadow was plying his magical beat-driven instrumental hip-hop trade, but also UNKLE and the lighter, fluffier Morcheeba.
Some of the highlights are voice-driven songs, with rappers Talib Kweli and De La Soul's Posdnuos trading verses on the swinging dynamism of Stay The Course, the soothing, gently grizzled voice on I've Been Trying reminds of Gil Scott Heron, and the plaintive piano sweetness of Sad and Lonely is stunning. There's also something deliciously dated about the graunching industrial dance riffs of Border Crossing and Give Me Back the Nights sounds as though it's been excavated from the vault of ranting and raving American punk icon Jello Biafra.
Bolshier songs, like the skittery Run For Your Life and the bog-standard big-beat fare of single I Gotta Rokk almost lower the tone on an album that's at its best when it's moody and soulful. But though it's not a patch on Endtroducing ... it does have flashes of Shadow's beat brilliance and lashings of intrigue.
Verdict: Minor return to form from favourite DJ saviour
Buy the album here.