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Album Review

Review: DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing…

October 15, 2021

By Seth Webb

Endtroducing…, released in 1996, is not only DJ Shadow’s first album, but is also the first album ever to be made entirely of sampled songs. In this album, DJ Shadow (Joshua Davis),  mixes together loops of early hip-hop and drum focused jazz, typically songs from the 70’s, and fuses them together to create an overall atmosphere for each track. What’s impressive is the range of mood achieved between songs, the artist even saying himself, “I feel like 'Organ Donor' sounds nothing like 'The Number Song' which sounds nothing like 'Midnight' and on and on.” Many critics consider the album to be a defining instance of experimental hip-hop, and a masterpiece of the genre.

The album starts with the track Best Foot Forward, an introduction to the album that foreshadows its sampling nature, and even debuts samples that will show up again in other Tracks.

 Notable Tracks on the album are going to begin with  Building Steam With a Grain of Salt, a beautiful medley of drum, chorus,  and piano that juxtaposes both a machines ability to play loops with perfect consistency and its use as a tool for creating new rhythms that seem almost stitched together in the form of a drum solo midway through the track that is accompanied with a soft bass and piano combo. The atmosphere of the song gives a steady sense of progression, a result of the drum loop that drives the song and the listener along, making it a good fit as either a late night driving song or a workout song.

 Changeling has a solid swing rhythm that is layered on with discordered, modulated keys, low bass patterns, and eerie synth noises. It feels less grounded in reality, having an ethereal feel to it, as if you were in a dream and the environment around you was an echo of something truer. The track slows down a ways through and the samples cut in and out rapidly lining up with the rate of the cymbals. When the track comes back its a very jazzy electric guitar that plays a rift, only for it to be repeated in way that makes it sound is if its being played off in the distance, it gives the impression its two guitars having a conversation, meanwhile a drum builds behind it to then cut out and fade into strings.

Midnight in a Perfect World is the third and final of what I would call the crown jewels of the album, and is often regarded as the best track on the album. It contains a simple piano and synth sample that was featured earlier in the track Transmission 2, but it layers on top of that a controlled drum kit and bass loop, and replaces some of the non melodic piano parts with a chorus that has a heavy reverb. The intro of the song follows this pattern for a while, slowly fading in the words midnight, to have it buildup, cut everything but the drum, and then re-incorporate all of the instruments back in one by one, with the piano now taking center stage over the vocals. The track continues shifting the focus to different instruments, usually switching up that instrument's pattern to a more complex pattern for a while, until the track ultimately concludes with the word midnight being vocal chopped rapidly, almost like a record scratch, until the track fades into the ticking of a clock.

This isn’t to say that the other tracks are without merit, The Number Song  is a rapid and high energy track that showcases many different drum patterns and record scratches and  a close contender with the crown jewels of the album, What Does Your Soul Look Like is a really pleasant, almost romantic, duet of electric bass and saxophone, Stem/Long Stem starts and ends as a soft melodic piece with a random high intensity beat down section with drum and string in the middle and contains samples from another track on here Organ Donor which is an almost haunting electric organ melody piece that is very reminiscent of Tocata y fuga, Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain is a distorted assortment of electric guitar and drum, What does Your Soul Look Like, Pt. 1  is again a swing pattern drum with a melody of record scratches on top, and Mutual Slump is another high intensity drum piece with long sweeping soundscapes inbetween.  These tracks aren’t bad, it’s just they do very similar things to the top three, just not as well in comparison, and in some parts they feel as if they’re just a little too experimental, almost experimental for experiments sake and less songs themselves. I still do enjoy them, and I strongly recommend that if you check out the album you give them a listen too, but I would encourage you to start with Building Steam with a Grain of Salt, Changeling, and Midnight in a Perfect World first as those are masterpieces of the genre.

If you do enjoy this album I would recommend other tracks from newer albums such as Rocket Fuel (feat. De La Soul)  and Nobody Speak (feat. Run The Jewels) though I will warn the latter does have much more explicit content.

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