[Today: Digging in the audio graveyard…]
DJ Shadow’s debut album was built entirely from samples that he scavenged from a basement full of forgotten LPs beneath his favorite record store. Using bits of R&B, Jazz, Classical Music, educational albums, commercial jingles, and much more, Shadow (aka Josh Davis) took nine months to sample, loop and process a staggering breadth of obscure noises, and then weave them into a dramatic soundscape that’s alternately soothing and menacing, and layered to the skies.
There are so many diverse genres represented here – the Chaffey College Jazz Ensemble, Metallica, Pigmeat Markham, Tangerine Dream, David Axelrod, Billy Cobham, and a cast of what seems like thousands – that this album crosses over into its own style. If an alien space probe hovered over Earth for a few minutes, gathered together a cornucopia of sounds, and turned them into a haunting audio collage of life on this planet, it might sound something like Endtroducing…
When this album was released in November of 1996, the art of the break beat was just entering its third decade. But there was still much debate about whether a turntable could really be considered an instrument, and if skillful sampling constituted original creation. Endtroducing… made mincemeat of the naysayers, and proved that in the right hands, a stack of old record albums could serve as a palette of sounds for the fabrication of completely new grooves.
But as much as Endtroducing… still seems like a blueprint for the future of music, it’s the kind of album that has proven extremely difficult to imitate. There have been a handful of sublime sample-centric albums over the last dozen years (The Avalanches and The Kleptones both do good work in this area), but none of them touch the moldering atmosphere that DJ Shadow dug out of his friendly neighborhood audio graveyard.
Listen: Mutual Slump
Listen: Changeling / Transmission 1