Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot. Others transform a yellow spot into the sun. – Pablo Picasso
Music journalism goes in waves. At the moment there is a recurring theme of (insert a year divisible by two) ‘was the most important in the history of music ever’. So here goes, I am going to postulate that Endtroducing took dance music into an entirely different room; it was the first time that music designed to move the feet; moved the heart.
Let’s talk about art. Hockney has said that the art of painting was advanced by two things. Sable brushes meant that a greater degree of detail could be added. Paint in aluminium tubes meant the process could be taken outdoors: landscape painting was born. Trainspotters will know that the key element in the production of Endtroducing was the Akai MPC60 sampler. Admittedly, sampling had gone on for a few years before then.
What made it so different, so unique, so original is that no-one had ever really thought of doing ‘instrumental hip-hop’ before. It’s a landscape portrait of thousands of different samples from every conceivable genre of music; as if someone had tapped into what was going into your ears and filtered it, like blood into your own heart. And there is a lot of heart in this music: underneath that landscape of samples is a pounding, insistent drumbeat. It pushes you on, forces you to listen to what the music is doing to you emotionally. It’s funny, sinister, contemplative, heart breaking and hypnotic.
I still have my original copy. The overlarge Mo’ Wax cardboard packaging is battered twenty years on. In that sense, it’s a moment frozen in time. You could say that of every piece of music, really. Every piece of music you buy is a small exercise in Gestalt theory, a Damascene moment without the religious complications. The cover of Endtroducing shows a time-lapse picture of people leafing through records. It’s a scene reducing to the commonplace by bearded hipsters and vinyl bores. DJ Shadow’s music has grown more and more mainstream at roughly the same pace. It lacks the purity of his debut, drowned in guest stars and the presentation of half-baked ideas.
As a self-styled young buck, Endtroducing filtered out of every club, coffee and clothes shop. Twenty years on, it still sounds twenty years ahead of everything else. Twenty years on, I reckon I’ll still be listening to it. I speak as an evangelist for its enduring beauty. It’s timeless, endless music for both the heart and the feet.