There are myriad perils in crafting a live performance using only vinyl 45s. At least according to a highly amusing "educational" film that plays at the outset of DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's new Hard Sell show, which lists such wax-mastering challenges as "The disc is spinning [faster], so DJs have to move quicker to access desired points on the record" and "Those big holes can really wreak havoc when you're cutting it up!"
But if anyone can make scores of vintage seven-inches submit to a DJ's creative will (not to mention unearthing them from dusty record bins in the first place), it's this duo of longtime friends and collaborators. Hard Sell is the third installment of the Shadow and Chemist live-with-45s tour series. It follows 1999's Brainfreeze — where the accompanying mix album, with its convenience-store motif, has become a bootlegged rarity after earning a cease-and-desist letter from 7-Eleven — and 2001's Product Placement.
While those previous productions focused mainly on the funk, Hard Sell goes further, incorporating mostly-forgotten honky-tonk, metal, doo-wop, novelty, easy listening, electro, and new wave singles. Using eight turntables, four mixers, and loop pedals, Shadow and Chemist aren't simply mashing up tunes during two continuous, one-hour sets; they're weaving disparate musical elements into elaborate setpieces with an artistic approach that approximates Shadow's classic, the 100-percent-sampled Endtroducing.
In Philadelphia, an early stop on the tour, the pair expertly flitted around the decks below screens that displayed arresting visuals as well as shots from cameras mounted to the DJs' wrists and gear. The effect was to put you right inside a mix that moved from hyperkinetic to woozily psychedelic. Shadow and Chemist put on an impressive musical display that makes it easy to buy what these guys are sellin'.