- DJ Shadow and James Lavelle haven't been on the same bill since 1998, the days of the last Mo Wax nights in London, where Shadow would play '70s breaks and Lavelle would play emerging local trip-hop. When they shared the bill at this year's Meltdown, which Lavelle curated, the result was in most respects a far cry from the old days, but it did hark back to them in some ways: "It's still all about the underground beats" Shadow said in his customary introduction. And he was, for the most part, quite right.
Though Shadow's famed crate-digging may have been partly replaced by forum-hopping and YouTube-scouring, his beats are still fresh. Rather than looking to the past, he's concentrated his musical interests on cutting-edge productions by his fellow Californians. Save for a brief nod to his origins with the intro of "What Does Your Soul Look Like? (Part 2)," breaks have been superseded by bubbling bleeps. Heavy low-end has taken precedence over organ interludes, and straight-up rap has lost out to cut-up juke. This was an evolution of the same set that got Shadow kicked offstage at Miami's Mansion in December of 2012 (and was better-received at LA institution Low End Theory), but he kept it contemporary, playing raw Bay Area beats to unfamiliar ears. Peppered with touches of funk from his own CaliTex label, it may have felt frenetic at times, but it still formed a characteristically atmospheric party set, with what felt like 100 tracks in 80 minutes.
Lavelle followed, opening with a promising soundscape to clear the air of the West Coast bubbles. Though he's long since proven his impeccable skills as a DJ, it must be said that on this occasion his selections left much to be desired. Sporting his trademark fedora and dark glasses in Area's sub-arch tunnel, Lavelle played hard tech remixes of recent Unkle tunes, followed by unmemorable techno, often with excessive EQ fiddling. In the end, Lavelle's set demonstrated just how far his and Shadow's paths have diverged in the years since Psyence Fiction. Nonetheless, the influential history of Mo Wax lives on.