Mo' Wax, 1996
A 90s trip hop classic which completely missed my radar the first time around. It's just been reissued with an extra disc of remixes, but this review is of the one disc original. "Endtroducing..." makes an art form out of sampling, a continuous sweep of music that sounds not like a patched collage, but a completely natural sequence. It might be seen as a musical soundtrack to the mind, creeping under the skin to evoke fleeting memories, or the song in your head that won't go away and you don't want it to. The sounds are largely ripped from second hand vinyl stores like the one on the album's cover, fused with great production flair.
To a 2005 ear, its revolutionary nature has probably blunted, but that takes nothing away from the beauty of much of its music. The pure big beats of tracks like "The Number Song" might wash over tourists like me who are ignorant of the hip-hop genre. But the album's first thirty seconds sees him shattering apart musical complacency with a blast of chaotic voiceovers, raps and scratches, to finally announce he's about music, not just attitude, as a tingling Philip Glass style piano loop and thundering beats emerge to kick off "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt".
It's held together by some riveting extended instrumentals. Especially broad and cinematic is "Stem / Long Stem", with its insistent harp loop and crooning cello, made more evocative by a paranoia-inducing vox pop from a persecuted citizen. Samples I felt smug about recognising included a riff from Tangerine Dream's "Stratosfear", which emerges naturally from the rumbling of "Changeling". But not too naturally - it still clashes juicily with the main theme. Also a soft loop from Björk's "Possibly Maybe" calms the abrasive beats of "Mutual Slump".
If it seems as if you've heard the tunes or samples before somewhere, well, you have in the case of "Midnight in a Perfect World", which gets a sneak preview on "Transmission 2". This silkiest of tracks needs nothing more than a lovely caressed Rhodes keyboard theme and an airy female vocal float. Carrying on the mellow midnight theme, "What Does Your Soul Like (part 1)" evokes the movie romanticism of late nights in rainy cities, with a gnawing lounge sax solo. The hyped classic status of this album is deserved, and its recent reissue should bring a new generation's attention to it.
July 10, 2005