DJ Shadow – Endtroducing….. (1996): Review

endtroducing

Produced by DJ Shadow
Label – Mo’ Wax

One tends to think of Josh Davis as the Quentin Tarantino of his art form. Much like the movie director, he obsessively collected, compiled and soaked himself in its history, with an extraordinary knowledge from remnants and memento’s of the vast collection compiled within his short 25 years. With thousands of records in his itinerary, by the early 1990s the lure of hip hop, and particularly sampling led to what most believe to be the seminal instrumental turntablism collection of its era. The grand intent was to create something wholly unique, a record created using snippets from a multitude of genres with minimal organic instrumentation. His record label provided a cover sticker pretentiously lauding him as “The Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page of the sampler”, and his loose organization of like minded producers (Quannum) viewed him as some kind of forerunning wonder kid. Without doubt, he heralded a new style, beginning in 1993 with “In/flux” and “Entropy” and this Mo’Wax/A&M compilation of tunes takes the listener on over an hour’s journey through a carefully spliced amalgam of both well known and virtually forgotten music from the previous 30 years, all with added breakbeats.

shadow

Sadly though, “Endtroducing…” for all its supposed outstanding invention, is still tragically overrated. So much so, Davis’ subsequent career has never recovered from the fallout. The hipster press exuded incredible amounts of column inches to the supposed quality of the recording, which of course led to a groundswell of interest from those aspiring to be sniffy hip hop aficionados. As so often, music hacks confuse originality with musicality and here is a prime example. It’s a half decent album with some interesting moments, but there’s often a sense of lugubrious mediocrity on some of the more stately, ambient soundscapes. It drifts along, eventually becoming background music whilst you think about what Moby’s up to these days. Some culpability for the luke warm introspection lies in the re-emergence of “What Does Your Soul Look Like”, originally recorded as a 40 minute single two years previously and cut down in two parts to twelve minutes of aural whitewash. When Davis relatively adheres to the template the results are much more fulfilling as on “The Number Song” and “Mutual Slump”, which are held together by huge rhythms, and then one can understand his unrivalled potential. Unfortunately much of the remainder simply fails to live up to its star billing.

You will see few reviews defying the notion that “Endtroducing…” isn’t one of the greatest albums ever created. Conversely there are one or two dissenters who will summarize it as an elaborate exercise in studio engineering skill with no corresponding emotional commitment.

6/10

Track Rating
1 – Best Foot Forward (na)
2 – Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt (6)
3 – The Number Song (7)
4 – Changeling (6)
5 – Transmission 1 (na)
6 – What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4) (6)
7 – Untitled (na)
8 – Stem/Long Stem (6)
9 – Transmission 2 (6)
10 – Mutual Slump (7)
11 – Organ Donor (5)
12 – Why Hip Hop Sucks In ’96 (na)
13 – Midnight In A Perfect World (6)
14 – Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain (6)
15 – What Does Your Soul Look Like – Part 1 – Blue Sky (6)
16 – Transmission 3 (6)

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2 responses to “DJ Shadow – Endtroducing….. (1996): Review

  1. That’s a neat distinction, originality and musicality – you mentioned Tarantino, the same could probably be applied to film or any other art medium.
    Critics will go bananas over something that’s ‘new’ when years later, once the ‘newness’ excitement fades, it may not actually be all that good.
    It will be interesting to see if more join the ‘meh’ camp as the years go on with this one.
    Nice post!

  2. I thought of the Tarantino comparison because both he and Davis were driven by obsession with their art. There’s quite a number of bands and artists that are in this book for their exploratory achievements. Originality and quality aren’t mutually entwined. Shall we retire to the bunker now Geoff? I feel a shelling from DJ Shadow’s ardent fans is imminent.

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