In 1996, California's DJ Shadow released an album that shifted the musical landscape and took the art of sampling to a whole new dimension. It was the first record to be made almost entirely of sampled music and sounds, and its moody atmospherics were deeply immersive listening.
He’s softly spoken, carefully considered in his responses and at his happiest spending long stretches of time in musty old record stores digging for obscure, forgotten treasures.
In the 2002 hip hop doco Scratch, Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow) took us on a tour of the basement of the music store where he sourced most of the samples for his groundbreaking debut, Endtroducing.....
While the thrill of the hunt and a strong sense of anticipation come with the territory of digging expeditions, Shadow holds to more of a deferential mindset.
“Just being in here is like a humbling experience to me, because you’re looking through all these records and its sort of like a pile of broken dreams in a way. You have to respect that if you’re making records.”
DJ Shadow took those broken dreams and crafted them into a collection of songs that elevated the art of sampling into a new light.
It wasn’t stealing from another artist’s works for your own gain. His aim was to make an album entirely from samples and show a deeper aspect to their viability and vibrance in his own creations.
His samples didn’t jump out like a sideshow attraction in the song. They were the song; fragments woven together to create a darkly atmospheric and moody album.
It made a sizeable impression on a young Tim Shiel, now of Double J, and subsequently left him completely awestruck.
“It blew my teenage mind. It was probably the album that introduced me to the concept of mood-driven music. Every song is just soaked in mood and atmosphere. It was one of the first instrumental albums that I completely fell for’
One of Australia’s most respected hip hop producers, Plutonic Lab, was a fan of early Mo Wax releases and recognised Shadow as one of the label’s standout talents.
“Endtroducing came along and really opened my eyes to what else was possible with instrumental hip-hop. It was expansive, cinematic, sample heavy and yet still very street.
In the year of the album’s release, Plutonic got to support Shadow live as he performed for the Mo-Wax showcase in Melbourne.
The event remains a vivid memory.
“That night still stands as a highlight for me, To hear many of what were then, very new and some unreleased tracks played that night. It sounded so fresh and groundbreaking. We were all in awe!’
Endtroducing used samples of music from various genres like hip hop, funk, jazz, psychedelia, heavy metal and mostly from obscure artists.
Samples of Bjork’s ‘Possibly Maybe’ and Metallica’s ‘Orion’ were also used, but their presence isn’t at all prominent.
They all serve the overarching feel of the album and as such musical boundaries were blurred on this record.
“Every sample selection works towards this single goal in terms of mood,” says Tim Shiel.
“So despite all these disparate sample sources, there is such a consistent sound throughout, and that's all about Shadow and his personality and taste at the time.’
Known for his love of digging for vinyl, Sky High presenter Lance Ferguson says there’s no question about this album’s enduring influence.
“Endtroducing still sends chills down my spine,” he says.
“When I first heard the song ‘Changeling’ my musical life was indeed changed forever. At the time it encapsulated everything that was exciting to me about music (and still is!).
“Shadow took the production techniques of hip-hop into a new creative realm, giving us a found-sound musical collage whose finished tracks far exceed the sum of their parts.
“20 years on, none of the emotion and poignance of this record has been diluted. It’s a monumental work.”