First Repressions: DJ Shadow

Yesterday, I wrote about blink 182′s recent reissues as the first part in this “First Repressions” series, which will look at a number of the brilliant reissues that have been coming out recently. Next on my list of reissues to check out is DJ Shadow‘s seminal album, Endtroducing…. The album is not only a break through in collaging deep cuts together but also a funky vanguard new music. Each track on Endtroducing… is lush and strange–a true kaleidoscope of sound. Without this record, and DJ Shadow as an artist in general, acts that range from Death Grips to Kaytranada, from Daft Punk to St. Germain would not exist.

The 20th anniversary box set features not only the album that has only grown more and more innovative with its age but also a compilation double LP and a double LP of alternate takes, remixes and dub mixes. Perfect for even the most casual DJ Shadow fan, this level of album worship is not without cause. When other DJs were pulling almost exclusively from funk and soul breaks, DJ Shadow went deeper, including bits and pieces of psych, rock, and electronic textures. The turntable master weaved them together with a light hand, scratching and overdubbing at the critical moments to create a seamless collage.

Usually, when I’m analyzing albums, I look at tracks from the beginning, middle, and end to see how they act as structural references for the record as a whole. Endtroducing… is a bit different. Truly, each track works independently from the others to create moments that are oversaturated with aural pleasure and absolutely drip funk. But the album works as a whole in a way that few if any other albums do. The tracks, perhaps due to their collaged construction, wash into each other and reference past and future songs in a way that is subtle and intricate–something like Eliot’s Waste Land in terms of allusion and intertextuality.

And this attention to detail that seems superhuman is housed in packaging that is as beautiful as the sounds it contains. Featuring a hardcover, 48 page book with a new interview of the artist, a limited press of Excessive Ephemera, gatefold sleeve, all housed in a gold box, Endtroducing… (The 20th Anniversary Endtrospective) is a work of art both off and on a turntable.

It is hard for me to imagine a world in which Endtroducing… did not exist. Like the modernists, who set off a bomb to the prevailing aesthetics, DJ Shadow in this seminal album reimagined what was musically possible in the 20th century. And in some ways, the album still sounds as fresh, perhaps fresher, 20 years after its unveiling. Endtroducing… is sort of like the Hamlet of the music world. Whether you like or disdain the music, you must be aware of it in order to contextualize contemporary western thought.

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