(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )
Since record companies don't seem to be in any hurry to quit cluttering the world with ambient, hip-hop collages assembled from DJs' vast collections of vinyl, one might as well learn to live with the damned things. As it turns out, Endtroducing--the debut collage from the latest all-the-rage sampler DJ Shadow--is pretty easy to live with. With the exception of a few rat-a-tat-tat explosions from drum machines set on "strafe," most of the results of Shadow's cutting and pasting induce an almost Windham Hill-like trance.
This is a particularly impressive trick in that, according to the liner notes, Windham Hill is practically the only label whose artists Shadow hasn't sampled. BMG, Welk, Island, Sony, Virgin, yes--but no George Winston, William Ackerman, or (DJ?) Shadowfax. Of course, getting ambiance by sampling Tangerine Dream ("Changeling"), one of the Virgin artists encrypted here, is no great accomplishment, but at least Shadow’s no Afrocentric elitist. White German prog-rock dinosaurs? Bring 'em on! This B-boy's world turns 360 degrees.
He has a sense of humor, too. He calls one song based on an organ sample "Organ Donor," and he calls one that has nothing to do with why hip-hop sucks in '96 "Why Hip Hop Sucks in '96." He also has a healthy disregard for words, almost none of which sully Endtroducing's thirteen tracks. Sooner or later, however, the disembodied ethereality of the results gives rise to the question of whether music comprised of nothing but manipulated samples actually makes for fun listening or merely makes pondering postmodern theories of the fragmentation of the self seem hipper than it is.