DJ Shadow Mines ‘80s R&B for Cinematic Synth-Funk on “You Played Me”

DJ Shadow Is Still Changing the Game on "You Played Me," a new single from a forthcoming album 'Action Adventure' | Courtesy of the artist

In the opening minutes of DJ Shadow’s 1996 debut album Endtroducing…, he samples the words of jazz drummer George Marsh: “I’m a student of the drums. And I’m also a teacher of the drums, too.” The veteran beatmaker’s next lesson is on its way, in the form of his new album Action Adventure (Oct. 27, Mass Appeal/Liquid Amber), but Friday’s “You Played Me” feels less like class and more like recess.

Our second preview of Action Adventure after August’s “Ozone Scraper,” the effervescent “You Played Me” might as well be a DeLorean pointed straight to 1985. Shadow drew inspiration from an eBay auction lot comprising 200 tapes’ worth of Baltimore/D.C.-area radio mix rips, piecing a new instrumental together from punchy, synth-driven ‘80s R&B and an obscure (seriously, good luck googling it—or anything else nowadays, for that matter) vocal sample plucked from his record collection. The result is a plush, yet relentlessly propulsive synth-funk jam, the kind of track that gets and keeps you up out of your seat.

As if the single’s vibe weren’t sufficiently cinematic, “You Played Me” arrived alongside a music video, directed and edited by The Reggies (Dillon Francis, Young Gravy, Aluna), and shot at Missouri’s National Audio Company, the last U.S. factory that still makes cassette tapes. The rhythmically structured visual finds the factory’s overnight cleaning crew stalked by its apparent only employee, a loner who juggles “You Played Me” tapes much like Shadow himself handles samples. The loner’s steadily escalating theatrics trace the song’s spread throughout the factory, but the witnesses don’t notice until it’s too late.

“Cinematic” is a key term when it comes to Action Adventure: The album aims to evoke “the halcyon days of video store browsing,” per press notes, keeping Shadow’s soundscapes ever-shifting, as well as mostly instrumental and feature-free. Its singles so far are a far cry from the skeletal boom-bap of the Endtroducing… days, with glittering retro synths and eerie melodies attuned more to the cineplex than a sidewalk cypher. Eight albums in, the student—and the teacher—is still evolving.

DJ Shadow has a half-dozen live dates on the books in October, including sets at the Fool’s Gold 15th Anniversary Residency in Brooklyn and Levitation Festival in Austin. You’ll find those below, and Action Adventure preorders right here.

DJ Shadow Tour Dates:

October 6 – Headlining Submersion Festival – Hammonton, NJ

October 8 – Fool’s Gold 15th Anniversary Residency – Public Records – Brooklyn, NY 

October 21 – Mission Ballroom – Denver, CO w/ Thievery Corporation

October 22 – Radius – Chicago, IL w/ Thievery Corporation

October 29 – Levitation Festival – Austin, TX

October 31 – 1015 Folsom – San Francisco, CA

More New Music

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