Artist: DJ Shadow
Label: Mo Wax Records
I’m not sure where to start with this. This record has just recently worked its way back into my rotation of regular albums, so I googled it and found that it was released on this day, 19 November, back in 1996. Nineteen-ninety-six. Making this record 19 years old. I find it shocking and comforting at the same time. In one sense it does feel a bit dated now, maybe that is just due to the 100% sampled nature of it, coupled with it’s obvious lo-fi sound, creating from ripping old records. Maybe it is just because I have played it soooooooo much. However, when it was released it was such a forward thinking album, and in some respects I think that still holds true even now.
Whatever you think of his more recent work, DJ Shadow was definitely doing something special at this time. Case in point; DJ Shadow’s track ‘In/Flux’ (which came out before Endtroducing) along with a handful of other stuff getting heavy play in London underground clubs, led to Mixmag journalist Andy Pemberton using the term ‘Trip Hop’ specifically to refer to this type of music. People had already been using the term, especially in the Bristol scene with artists like Tricky and Massive Attack, but this was the first time it had been used in a formal, public, written context and the term was used in particular to refer to Shadow and his ‘In/Flux’ track. DJ Shadow helped inadvertently create a new genre, or at least help define the name for this experimental, ‘trippy’ form of instrumental music. And by consequence, his debut album ‘Endtroducing’ also helped to define what that genre sounded like. Trip Hop is a genre that in fact bends/blends a whole slew of genres into one. It’s over arching influence is definitely Hip Hop, relying heavily on drum patterns and sampling. However DJ Shadow sampled from so many places, blending hip hop, jazz, funk, psychedelic rock, heavy metal, choir music, ambient ‘stuff’, film samples, interviews - and he worked with them in such a way, that labelling his music as strictly Hip Hop just wouldn’t suffice.
I don’t remember the when, where, or how of me first hearing this album, but I was hooked straight away. Some people just write it off as ‘stoner music’, and there is definitely that element to it, and it might explain some of my affinity with the record. But there is something that draws me back time after time after to listen to it, something that transcends ripping bongs and nodding out on the sofa. It’s great to listen to while you are sat doing work - whether it is drawing, writing, photoshop edits, anything like that. I find it helps me focus in times like those, but it also lets my mind wander off, to think abstractly, or to even just switch of entirely, and just ‘be'. This is definitely where the ‘trip’ element comes into play. Sometimes I almost feel my mind expand when I listen to this album. Like most albums of this nature, headphones can pay dividends. When you use headphones, it can almost feel like that Hunter S Thompson quote “You buy the ticket, and take the ride”. From that introductory haunting piano loop on ‘Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt’ your mind steps away from the rest of you, and then each new element that gets introduced to the track lets your mind wander further and further away, almost like an act of guided meditation. That steady head-nodding drum beat, then the choir sample, the scratches, the spoken word samples, then the MPC drum ’solos’. And before you know it, when that same piano loop comes back around, you are blissfully lost - whatever it was in your life that was bugging you a few minutes ago is forgotten, and you’re free to disappear even further down the rabbit hole for the next hour…
This was only meant to be a quick post, so I’ll stop here and leave discussing the album deeper for another time. Maybe this time next year, when the album has its 20th birthday. Basically, I think this is an amazing album. It has huge replay value. It’s so layered that you can find new, seemingly unheard sections, with each new play through. Hopefully this waffle has been enough inspiration for you to dig out your copy and give it a spin. If you don’t know anything about this album, change that fact right now by finding it and listening to it…