One of the finest musical moments of the 1990s was DJ Shadow’s 1996 debut album, ‘Endtroducing’. Endtroducing was a unique beast in that it almost entirely consisted of samples. At the time you would have found it, probably rightly, in the hip-hop section of your local record store. But Endtroducing was so much more than your typical hop-hop album. It brought together elements of rock, funk, soul, metal, jazz and was cinematic in its scope. The album also featured snippets from interviews, e.g. with musicians, and from TV shows, e.g. Twin Peaks. It sounds like a recipe for disaster but was the total opposite, a classic album.
I went to London’s KOKO, a wonderful building that opened on boxing day in 1900 (as the Camden Theatre), to see the album played in its entirety by live musicians. I was intrigued not only by how it would work but whether the band could pull off the feat. Introducing (gettit?), the band in question, had in fact done this a number of times so success was perhaps guaranteed. The band are chameleon-like and have also performed, under different guises, the work of Daft Punk and Mr Scruff.
The band consisted of two vocalists (male and female), keyboards, bass, guitar, drums, alto sax and turntables. The album kicks off with a sample, so any secret as to how the band would replicate the album was short lived: the vocalists, not the DJ, did the honours. Suffice to say that the band did the album justice, which is not mean feat. There are many tribute and covers bands out there but bands playing albums is a bit different. You could take the view that why not just stay at home and listen to the actual album? But hearing it live, played by musicians for which the project is a labour of love, makes you appreciate the album that much more. The album, despite being made up of samples, stands the test of a live band playing it and, more importantly, the audience diggin’ what they’re hearing.
(Photo: Nick Skates)
One of the highlights of the evening, alongside the drum break in ‘Stem’, and the Organ solo in ‘Organ Donor’, and my personal favourite, ‘Building steam with a grain of salt’, was the band playing the entirety of the tune ‘Grey Boy’ by Human Race, which DJ Shadow sampled for the track, ‘Untitled’. Check out the link here to appreciate both DJ Shadow’s use of sampling and a gem of a funk track.
If you’ve never heard DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing, treat yourself and check it out. If you love what you hear, or even if you don’t love it, check out Introducing if they’re in town. You won’t regret it.