on December 2, 2001
(This is Part One of a Two-Part Review.)
In November 1996, I was reeling from a summer in hell. After leaving a corporate-affiliated job and trying to figure out heads or tails about my future, I stumbled upon becoming an actor until I was able to start to make ends meet again.
On the closing night of a play I was in, I killed time in a Pasadena record store and stumbled upon a motherlode of music that would not only help cure me of post-play depression but would also help to make a painless transition into my current ( and more sober) state today. They were two used albums by trombonist Julian Priester & Mose Allison and the CD debut of DJ Shadow known as "Endtroducing".
Listening ot this album at 3:00 the next morning (after all the end-of-play festivities and well-wishings), I knew that the investment was a good one.
Mo' Wax, though being a great label, really has not put out many notable long-players that really stand the test of time. This has stood up very well five years later. In fact, this really is one of the very best albums that not only helps to maintain the constantly struggling vinyl culture but shows turntablism as a true art.
"Endtroducing" also stands alone as being one of the most emotional albums of this genre. There are so many textures and surprises spread throughout this masterwork, that you realize that this is more than just a white b-boy with amazing skills, but a modern day artist who knows about what makes a good groove connect with the listener. The man's use of samples, breakbeats and scratchings tell an awful lot about the history of music and it's 'revolutionary' transtions & expressions.
From the Steve Reich-influenced "Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt", to the excellent fusion piece "Changeling" to the atmospheric & beat-heavy "Midnight In A Perfect World", Shadow has mastered music that will not only haunt you for years to come but show how much an artist was able to stretch way beyond the then (1996) limitations of commercial hip-hop, smooth jazz and flashy techno-noodling.
Five years later, "Endotroducing" still remains in my collection, still creating that inner-magic and making time stand still. This could have been an emotional journey and introspection into the rights & wrongs of that cursed year. Instead, it makes me surer of the future and proud to still appreciate in the soul-deep that great music truly can create.
And that would only come full circle, five years later, with Shadow, Mo' Wax and David Axelrod.
(This piece is continued with the Mo' Wax David Axelrod CD review.)
on December 18, 2000
This is very well one of the greatest albums ever made. And the reason is because it is music. It's like a jazz album. And for me it's the best jazz album I have ever heard since Kind Of Blue (Miles Davis).
It's not techno, infact it's the farthest thing from it. For me it's a mix between jazz and hip hop. Dj Shadow grew up as a hip hop kid, collected records since he was younger than 13 or something, and made this album.
The extraordinary thing about it is that it is 100 percent samples. Not many people will believe it when they first hear it, because it's crafted together to sound like it isn't samples. For example, how many people have heard a hip hop track with a deep piano sample (that also isn't "funky" whatsoever) throughout the whole song? Or emotional female vocals to fill in empty spots (that's also a sample)? Or better yet, how many have ever heard, in their whole lives, a song that has a classical bass loop, mixed with a female vocals, mixed with a funky wah wah guitar, and a heavy slowed down hip hop beat? When I first heard it I thought to myself "oh he must be playing that piano" or "oh he's probably got a keyboard that can do that" or "his girl is probably doing the vocals there". But it isn't like that at all, his keyboard, piano, and girl who can sing is his records!
This album is different, and that is the great thing about it.
Now another fun thing to figure out is where the hell did he get all those damn samples? There's some samples on this album that NO ONE knows about! And that's another extraordinary thing, it truly shows how much he worked on this album.
I saw a review back here that said his beats weren't raw and rugged, well this is as raw as it gets. And a few said that it was very hard to dance to, well if you want something like that then go buy an album by a guy who has a drum machine that goes up to 400 bpm and a keyboard that has a few keys on it. Another one said that this isn't the best drum and bass record they've ever heard, well read the above comment. And finally, I read one review that said his DJ skills are like those of a dj who plays at a bar, well he has many many records, and if he's been around his tables for that long, he probably knows a lot more than a bar dj about djing.
on December 1, 2003
...But with that and the exorbitant price I paid for DJ Shadow's phenomenal "Endtroducing..." notwithstanding, I thouroughly enjoyed this CD from beginning to end. I have recently gotten hip to the "cut-n-paste" sounds, as masterfully done by Amon Tobin, but in DJ Shadow I find his sampling style a bit more consistent and less "noisy". Check out any Tobin CD and you'll see what I mean. Although I'm several years late getting "Endtroducing...", I find it just as up-to-date as most CDs I've bought this year, which attests to the quality of Shadow's music. Even in 96, he was obviously ahead of his time, and foresaw where the music of today was headed. "Endtroducing..." is indeed a classic in its own right, much like a Prince CD (before all of his name changes, of course)...no matter how old it gets, it will always be enjoyable to listen to. I won't go into details as to which songs I like on "Endtroducing...", because they all are excellent and well produced gems. I have only one small problem, though...SONG #10--WHY HIPHOP SUCKS IN 96--the funkiest groove I have ever heard--IS TOO DAMN SHORT!!!!
on June 13, 2002
There's no need to write any long reviews about this album. Quite simply it's one of the most essential c.d.'s that came out in the 90's. If you ever wondered where some of the sounds of current musical trends originated from then look no further then this c.d. Using vast quantities of samples from what must be one of the biggest vinyl collections in the world-Josh Davis managed to create a monster of a c.d. that maybe long yet it seems to drift through from start to finish in no time. You'd imagine that a c.d. borrowing from so many types of music may sound a bit disjointed-be it hip-hop,furious breakbeats to chill out sounds,ambient,electronica (there isn't many better examples of good electronica than Stem/Long Stem) to funky music and the even funkier and often hilarious spoken word interludes(I love the stroy about "the girl with eyes as big as Jolly Ranchers"). The real sign that Davis is a genre breaking genius is the way he manages to knit the whole c.d. into one coherent piece of music. The classic intro of how (He?-I'm not sure whose voice the first track is) got into music sets the tome and it continues for one mind blowing hour. I'd have to say I became complacent about how good this c.d. is.I really began to understand it's quality once again when I purchased his latest c.d. "Private Press"-which while being good in parts,simply fails to live up to this c.d. When you consider that the work he did with James Lavelle on the UNKLE c.d. isn't quite as good either,you begin to think that maybe Davis set the standard to high with this debut. I just don't know how he can ever match the standards set on this c.d. never mind surpass them!
on April 19, 2004
In 1998 I had a crush on a girl named Ellie. On a rainy day we decided on an awkward quasi-date to Rasputin's Records and Blondie's Pizza. I sat down in the passenger seat of her beat-up Accord, she started the engine, and her tape player introduced me to a twinkling piano and hypnotizingly slow breakbeats. The notes fell like raindrops on her windshield, and forever in my mind, that moment, Ellie's perfume, my nervous tension, and DJ Shadow's "Building Steam With A Grain of Salt" were locked inseparably together. Whenever the rain starts to fall -- not a hard rain and not a sprinkle, but a steady, plodding, relentless patter of water on earth -- I think of this song.
Josh Davis, also known as DJ Shadow, makes that kind of impact with the arcane record samples he artfully merges into cohesive, thoughtful, revelatory aural collages. He is obsessed. He digs up sounds you and I have never heard before, and maybe a thing or two we have heard before, and fuses them into some brilliant new heterogeneous dream with the power to stir the subconscious and induce sheer awe.
Once I bought his CD and broke free of the hold that "Building..." had on me, I got accustomed to the other twelve tracks of the album. There were many pleasant surprises. I found "Midnight in a Perfect World" just as addicting as the song that got me hooked in the first place, a loping, seductive, scratch-heavy, impossibly beautiful five minutes and two seconds. "Changeling" was another fast favorite, like a lush sunset after a long summer day. "Stem/Long Stem" creeped me out with pernicious string samples surrounding a single lonely chime. And although it took some time, "Mutual Slump" eventually won me over with its dual personality: crashing percussion and ugly guitar riffs on the one hand, and a mournful, echoing backdrop offset by a shy girl's spoken diary on the other.
Many have already mentioned what an impact this album had on a number of prominent artists such as Moby and Radiohead. DJ shadow's influence has reverberated for several years now in the music industry. But for me, I can only attest to what it did for me when seated next to an unreachable girl, in the midst of my quixotic quest, on a gray and rainwashed early spring afternoon.
It was nothing short of an epiphany.
on January 12, 2001
Without a doubt, one of the all-time best albums ever recorded. I bought this cd years ago and have listened to it easily 2,000 times. I now have this cd imprinted to my skull. I don't even have to listen to it anymore because all I have to do is think about it and I can hear it in my head. This cd will leave an impression on you for years to come. I'm still mad that it takes him 5 years to put out an album. Anyway, back to the nice things to say. Check out the songs "Stem/Long Stem" "What Does Your Soul Look Like", "Mutual Slump", hell any of them. The best without a doubt, although his most famous, would have to be "Midnight In A Perfect World". At the time this album came out, I had never heard a song that portrayed what I THOUGHT to be the perfect song. I still feel that way. The title alone makes you hope it will be good - and it is.
If you are into hip-hop, soul, jazz, rock, etc. you have to get this album. It covers all ends of the spectrum and fulfills it's purpose all the way through. There isn't a slow track on the entire album. DJ Shadow is definately one of the biggest talents of my time. If he could just put out more music. Jeez. I mean, uh, back to the review. Every song has it's own sound but maintains the overall integrity of the album. If you really listen, you will hear some of the most beautiful and subtlely placed scratching ever placed onto wax. He is a master, in fact. Never is anything overdone on this album. I believe this is his best piece of work ever and will be very hard to top in the future. Hopefully I'll put my foot in my mouth someday. I'm looking forward to that.
So - if you're still reading this review and you haven't left to pick this cd up, or you haven't gone to another screen of amazon.com to order this, you're a fool. Be gone. Hope you dig it as much as I do.
on January 29, 2003
this player is devastatingly good. there are a few too many weak moments on this for it to be a momentous release. but its certainly the best i heard in this genre. napalm brain/scatter brain (or whatever its called) just moves me everytime i hear it. organ donor is a right little belter too, (u can find a better version on preemptive strike). and even though i find a fair bit of what i consider chaff on the album, i can see that there must be something for everyone on this disc. his loose jazz stylings are proper suited to nice quiet moments and the rythym just drags you along, it takes you places i swear. this 4 me is shadows best release, and as shadow is master of his genre, it makes this player a birthright in your collection. its one of the best in mine. the quality thats on display here would make it 5 stars for me if there werent so much weaker stuff. one or two tracks i always expect to be a bit below par on any player, but this one just crosses that boundary. making me find the skip button too often enjoys a mans journey.
on April 12, 2001
This is an amazing album.
One of the biggest reasons for this being so is that it has staying power. It is something like six years old now and sounds fresh and vital.... Really, I don't know that this is going to mean anything to anyone reading this review with some intent to buy. First, just buy it.
Second, what this album is is one man's collage created out of a lifetime of looking through records, taking them apart, and putting them back together again. DJ Shadow is the foremost turntablist IF that is defined to being able to dissect something and then put it back together into a coherant whole that is something COMPLETE and just not an act of will or skill (though you do have to give props to people like DJ Q-bert for how he scratches, or Kid Koala, for what he scratches with, or Peanut Butter Wolf, for how he can raise the caliber of the other people he's working with....) This album is SO far above what anyone else has done (DJ Cam's 'Mad Blunted Jazz' is the only thing that even comes sort of close...)
Buy this album. It is totally, totally mind blowing and will become a soundtrack to your life. If you like it, then check out all of the stuff by Ninja Tune (a label) cause they are at the forefront of the 'modern' versions of this (with people like Amon Tobin and Koala)....
on February 19, 1999
Life is a set-up of many scenarios. One big stage to be exact, is the best way to describe life. The life of music has been totally described, conditioned and then re-altered for better pleasure when Shadow created this debut album. He is the first ambiant/cut-creator that I ever bought. For me, he involves culture to the music in a way that only is achieved through your subconscious. I placed scenes and actual events from my life in corrolation with his music. Every song reminds me of a certain memory. I treasure every memory it reminds me of, and I thank him personally for his enrichment to my culture. When I first began my relationship with my girlfriend, she left for France for 4 1/2 months. Over e-mail, thousands of dollars in phone calls from Florida, and the tone of his music that reminded me memories of her, we held our long distance relationship. In some ironic way, his music made me feel stonger and more relating to her through our two different cultures. (Florida to France) Explore his music style, and try to figure out what he's about. When you listen to 'Endtroducing', he'll already know what you're about...you'll either love it or hate it! J-Mac, Gainseville, Fl.
on December 11, 2000
This album was my introduction to the world of trip-hop and electronica, and I do not believe there is a more magnificent album to awaken the senses to the potentials of the genre. DJ Shadow's music is particularly vulnerable to flash characterizations, but its seeming fragmentation is a manifestation of its breadth and diversity.
The myriad samples, pieced together like a collage of conflicting themes and ideas, are incredibly well-synthesized by Shadow and seem like perfect representations of the fragmented modern musical landscape. Very few times has an electronica album captured so many musical sources in perfect harmony (Prodigy's Dirtchamber Sessions is another good example), but DJ Shadow's sophisticated precussion and distinct layering of melodies holds the bursting stew together.
My favorite tracks are probably "Stem/Long Stem" and "Changeling," but each track has its own vibrant atmosphere. The much-remarked upon "What Does your Soul Look Like" is a great link between the earlier and later periods of Shadow's work, and between his first and second albums. There is no better downtempo album out there (despite the notoriety of the Wild Bunch artists) and despite the obscurity of its sources (one vocal snippet is taken from a '70s nature special on African insects) it is a very accessible album. While on none of his albums has Shadow yet fulfilled the enormous potential established here, this is still a downtempo milestone.