The Times 17 June 1994

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The Times
Based inLondon

David Toop discusses Mo' Wax with regards to early DJ Shadow and UNKLE releases.


Mo' Wax clears the ears;New Waves: The Sounds Of Tomorrow, Today - by David Toop. The Times

There is a compelling mystique about the 12in slab of vinyl that arrives through the post with just an artist's pseudonym scrawled on its white label. The lack of a public relations compass for assistance in plotting a course through the music gives a sense of adventure to what might otherwise start as a chore.

This was the scenario when I received a single by D.J.Shadow last December. For 12 minutes, the music rambled its leisurely way through a series of sampled beats, opening and closing musical environments around them like rooms revealed by peepshow shutters. Was it hip-hop or jazz, and who was Shadow? But in the end, these questions were irrelevant. This was something fresh and vital. It was not something you could rush out and buy at Our Price, but the seductive powers of strange vinyl obscurities overshadow such dull practicalities. Perhaps this is how Shadow chose his name.

The word-of-mouth reputation for similarly mysterious tracks now leads us to the object in question: a purchasable, high street-friendly artefact devoted to the work of such indefinable oddities as Shadow. The name of the object is Royalties Overdue, a CD compilation which embraces the broad church of a record label that is Mo' Wax.

London-based and run by the very young and irrepressibly positive James Lavelle, Mo' Wax is another sign in the forest a broken twig here, a footprint there that music is passing through a period of change. Just how dramatic a change is evident from the latest Mo' Wax single. "The Time Has Come" by U.N.K.L.E. Howie B is like music heard through a dream. Reviews so far have emphasised what it is not.

What it is, nobody knows.