It’s midnight. I’m walking home, I see nothing but dark buildings and orange streetlights. Traffic goes by nearby, I can hear the wind in the trees. Somewhere below, in a nearby garden, a fox rests. With my headphones on, there is a peace to the city. We all have albums that form us. A track list that takes you back to a specific time, place or emotion. For most of us, a few specific albums become the soundtracks to our lives, melodies and lyrics that move past the mind and engrave themselves unto us. For better or worse, we carry these songs on our backs, in our hearts. For me, DJ Shadow's 1996 classic Entroducing is just that.
Mo' Wax Records, Entroducing by DJ Shadow, 1996, Cover by Brian Cross
Describing Entroducing by any means will sound pretentious and sycophantic. I’ve heard that you should never meet your heroes, and reviewers shouldn’t review their favourites. Hopefully, this isn’t true. I just want to share how much I love this album, and how much it means to me.
Comprised nearly entirely of vinyl samples collected by the West Coast musician, Entroducing was, and is, a genesis of instrumental hip hop, trip hop, and sampling in general. Fusing hip hop, jazz, British rock and even Bjork, Shadow creates a pastiche work, a collage of conflicting sounds that exist in conflict with one another. For me, the album works particularly well, as Shadow becomes a unifier of such contrasting genres, fusing them together to create something greater than its specific parts. A republic of sounds. Songs such as Changeling exemplify the harmony Shadow has been able to produce through this collage, as smooth jazz meets hip hop, and drums meet ambient white noise. It’s like you’re picking up multiple waves at once, amalgamating a hundred albums into one experience, one whole. Through a solid bass beat, persistent drums, and piano arpeggios, the songs never get lost in their own confusion, the legion of voices always fit together.
The range of the album isn’t just that seen through the samples, but that of the songs themselves. Fast-paced, excited and quintessential 90s hip hop sits peacefully next to lo-fi-sci-fi-tie-dye, transcendental ambience formed out of the vinyl shops bargain bin. One song, in particular, Midnight In a Perfect World, never fails to get to me. It reminds me so vividly of when I first discovered the album, to the times spent looking out into the silent city, the isolation and clarity I feel through the haunting “awoooo” ostinato. If you listen to one song on the album, please let it be Midnight.
Entroducing acts as an island unto itself, formed out of a cacophony of sounds masterfully put together in a Frankensteinian fashion. Each song, a collection of voices making a collected identity, and in form making a collected self. I see this album as just that; a new identity forged out of a history of experiences. There is a solitude nature to this, and the loneliness of the album shows just that; identity is singular, identity is collective.