DJ Shadow - Endtroducing...
Aug 9, 2018
93
This album is an elegant masterpiece. You will not find many beat tapes, playlists, or compilations that provide as clean and thorough of a listen as this collection of songs.

After the intro, the first real track, "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt" (which would later be sampled by Lou the Human) warms us up, ironically, with an icy cold beat. Chilling and eerie, the straight-forward groove eventually turns into an electronic drum solo over a funky guitar lick that returns throughout the album. There is no better way to start this album.

The Number Song is next, coming in strong with an upbeat boom-bap drum beat over a sample of Metallica's "Orion". The constant gliding and waving of the ride cymbal washes and blends right in with the creepy sample, before twisting itself into a happier sounding funk break. The song ends by returning to how it began, in traditional hip-hop fashion. DJ Shadow executes his transitions as smooth as butter.

Then we have Changeling, which immediately captures my attention with the seemingly out-of-place time signature, which is something like 3 bars of 4/4 and one bar of 2/4, or perhaps 2 bars of 4/4 and one of 6/4 (I always repeated. Eventually, you are introduced to two different fanning samples of just glittery, ice-cold, yet, smooth and rounded noise. Whatever this is, it's well used and couldn't have been executed better. The snare bit at the end is a bit weird, a tad free form, and it definitely doesn't ruin the song, but the overall pace of the song doesn't quite call for this section. The result is definitely far from bad, I am just being nit picky here.

What Does Your Soul Look Like Part 4 is a nice break from the more detailed parts of the album. We have a funky bass line played over a chill, acoustic drum beat, with some robotic and hypnotic vocals, with some ambient and subtle samples creeping in from time to time.

Stem/Long Stem is a more unique track. We start with a simple, (and yet again) freezing cold sample while the drums solo around and make up their mind on what kind of groove they want to play, which ends up being a black metal paced blast beat. It's an unexpected turn, although the besides this aspect, there isn't a whole lot of detail or variation behind it. This leaves me confused, because this drum section ends up being one of my favorite parts of the album, but doesn't keep the song in the masterful template it had set up with all the earlier tracks. The second half of the song is a nice, sleepy lullaby part that gently brings you back down from how high the earlier half brings you.

I've been skipping writing about some of the interlude tracks, but Transmission 2 serves as a smooth and sexy transition into the next track. Grab your coffee and have a seat.

Now, Mutual Slump is definitely not my favorite. While I dig the intention of the drums, the badly tuned bass drum is just kind of an annoying headache for me. There are some occasional fun samples that bleed through a little bit, and a drum solo that makes my ears perk up, but this track is definitely a little more "filler" for me.

Organ Donor is a cute little short but sweet display of how perfectly a simple melody and boom-bap drums can just effortlessly collide. There is enough variation in this short track to make it a decent standalone, but the length of the track makes me a little bit hungry for more.

Now we come to Midnight in a Perfect World, a minimalistic track with exquisite subtle samples. We hear DJ Shadow fully use the foreshadowed sample from Transmission 2. If you thought hearing the sample alone as an interlude was good, you'll fall in love with how gracefully it fits shoulder to shoulder with the vocal samples and very calm guitar solo. This track is one of the highlights of the album.

As we approach the end of the album, we arrive at the 9:21 monster that is Napalm Brain / Scatter Brain.
We start with a cozy bassline over a straight drum beat. Not VERY straight, though, as it tricks you into thinking it is approaching a detour until it finally does. Then we get to a pretty redundant bluesy-then-funky guitar lick. The transition into the next half of the song is great, with the sporadic hi-hat hits, followed by the sporadic snare hits, backed up by the consistent bass drum and new bassline that still gives off a cold feeling (there's that word again) while not needing to be dark or eerie, and as long and hectic as this song is, we aren't left with a satisfying outro to it. This song is definitely at the bottom of the list next to Mutual Slump.

Finally, we have What Does Your Soul Look Like Part 1, which indeed, has a simple and repetitive drum beat and sample. On par with the rest of the album, we have subtle samples that creep in unnoticed of what sounds like a drowned out choir. This song can really lull you into a sleep, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The use of turntables in this track is very classy and perfectly placed. There is nothing overwhelming in this easy-to-swallow track as it guides us to our drop-off point, which is Transmission 3.

Overall, this album is very good with not too many misses. When you need an album that can be enjoyed either as background music while you study, or while relaxing and placing deep focus on it, you can play this and get some satisfaction.

Best tracks: Building Steam with a Grain of Salt, The Number Song, Changeling, Midnight in a Perfect World

Worst Tracks: Mutual Slump, Napalm Brain / Scatter Brain.
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