Pioneering producer/DJ/composer DJ Shadow has shared “You Played Me” from his forthcoming album Action Adventure, out October 27 on Mass Appeal/Liquid Amber. His eighth studio LP, Action Adventure finds DJ Shadow continuing to evolve over 14 mostly instrumental tracks with no featured guests. It is a thrilling new addition to an influential body of work defined by a restless ear, always searching to rescue some forgotten gem from the dustbin of music history or a fresh blast of sound from the cutting edge.
“You Played Me” was partly inspired by an eBay auction of 200 tapes that were recorded from a radio mix station in the Baltimore/D.C. area in the ‘80s – a distinct blend of dance music, R&B and early hip-hop. Shadow created a beat that had the crackling percussion and burbling synths of classic ‘80s R&B, like a lost René and Angela hit. “I loaded up the instrumental and looped it on my computer to play forever,” he explains. Then he started dropping the needle on records in his collection that he hadn’t processed yet—an experiment to find the vocal in the haystack. “I dropped the needle on an acapella of a really obscure R&B 12-inch from around ‘84, ‘85 and I thought, ‘That actually works.’ After a few weeks of looking for a featured guest to sing on it, he realized he already had what he needed—the acapella was correct. “It’s an example of one of my favorite aspects of the music I make, which is just 100% serendipity. There are a thousand records sitting next to me that aren’t going to work; the right record got put on at the right moment to change the course of my album. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever made.”
Action Adventure evokes the halcyon days of video store browsing, a fitting title for an album brimming with soundscapes and the menacing, mysterious feel that is laced through all of his work. Making the album, which he started on January 1, 2022, pushed him deeper into his compositional bag than ever before. Though he isn’t classically trained, he asked himself questions like “which chord progression would be most natural here, and which would be least predictable?” and worked according to the inner logic that felt right to him. His rule for the record was simple: no compromises.
DJ Shadow has been releasing music for over three decades. His landmark debut Endtroducing…..was released in 1996, is considered one of the finest albums of that decade, and continues to influence new generations of artists. In the past few years he’s reached some tremendous new heights. 2016’s The Mountain Will Fall featured “Nobody Speak” with Run The Jewels. That single has long since gone gold, has nearly 100 million streams on Spotify, and continues to seep into the public consciousness as a soundtrack to countless spots in film and on TV. He returned in 2019 with Our Pathetic Age – a double LP featuring De La Soul, Nas, Run the Jewels, Pusha T, Inspectah Deck and Ghostface among others. The first disc featured all instrumental, original compositions, a foreshadowing of how Action Adventure would take shape.