Pop Albums: DJ Shadow Endtroducing... MoWax MW059

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The Independent Culture
Endtroducing... comes with the inscription, "this album reflects a lifetime of vinyl culture". The cover shows the interior of a record shop with black and caucasian men in casuals sorting out their stack for the weekend at racks which clearly carry records by ELO, Elvis Costello, Deep Purple, Marianne Faithfull and Stan Getz, surmounted, almost heraldically, by a generic record shop cat. Not, then, your conventional hip hop reference bank.

It's an appropriate image, however, for an album of sample-based music that's blowed if it's going to exclude interesting sounds on the grounds that they're generically impure. You'll find all the usual cut-up cues - burgled voice fragments, synthetic instrumental pads, twiddles, squeaks and scratches - set in a thick porridge of "phat" beats on a shallow trajectory in the direction of your hips. What you won't get from the album is a sense of social and geographical provenance; no Jamiroquai-style messages from village ghetto-land here. This is a manifesto from the planet Record Shop, whose only meaningful boundary, in the mind of DJ Shadow at least, is the one marked "exit". It's an ecumenicalism only enhanced by doodly passages that might have been copped from the early works of Genesis or The Nice.

Horrible? Not in the least. What made prog-rock so wretched was its conviction that technical virtuosity was the sole means by which music is made artistically valid, thus ensuring that most prog rock was solely about clever musicianship. Shadow seems to take the view that music is made artistically valid by the act of wanting to hear it - a complex philosophical reversal of accepted norms but a tenable one if you're one of those people who walks around with a hip hop drum program thumping in your head, like a ready-made accompaniment to the serendipities of everyday life. Endtroducing... is an album solely about the act of listening to music. It's pretty good, too.