When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to: A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time. B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety. C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers. D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go. To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).
Greetings glancers! It’s time once again to delve into some of the nearest music ever made according to one critic to see if I agree land find something new to love, or if I disagree and add another be to the ‘avoid swamp’. Today’s album takes us into the murky world of dance music, a loose term for sure, but one which best suits our purposes for now. It’s a genre I am not overly familiar with, knowing mostly the chart and club trash which is inescapable these days.
What I Know About DJ Shadow: He’s a DJ. I know some of my friends who aren’t traditional listeners of dance music listen to him. I don’t know if they are doing that because the music is genuinely good or because it’s a cool name to drop. I usually avoid anything with DJ in the name as everything I have since been exposed to has been awful. I’m cool. I’m also aware that his albums are frequently critically acclaimed.
What I Know About Endtroducing: Absolutely nothing. Is this his most critically acclaimed album? I’ve heard friends talk about one of his albums in particular, but I’ve no clue if this is it or not.
Without further Apu, let’s get listening.
Best Foot Forward: Speaking. Samples. Too many. Am I going to have to guess all of these? End?
Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt: Piano. Nice. A Pink Floyd vibe from the merging of music and speaking. Sounds like this may have appeared in a movie. Or a BMW advert. More talking, not quite loud enough to make out. See, I appreciate this sort of thing but not if it’s repetitive. Ok, some shifting. Drums collapsing. Shaft guitar sounds. More piano. More words. Fading. Fine.
The Number Song: Counting. Drums. I know that thrumming. Scratching and some rap words. Good enough to blast from car, not quite as good as blasting my own screeches. Shift. Sesame street. Echoes. Metallica thrumming. More counting. Collapse. Bubbles and gulps and drums.
Changeling/Transmission#1: Bong bing boong. Bong bing bonnng. More drums and hissing symbols. Radiohead beats. Collapse. Classical. Smooth. It’s all very mellow so far, not a full on bass attack. Some sort of singing. Trumpets. Collapse again. Stutters. Sudden guitar. Fading. Strings. Astronauts. Lasers. Ha ha, John Carpenter, one of my faves.
What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4): Funk and smooth. Sex trumpets. Sooty and Sweep. Dalek. Shouting. Piano and other mistakes. Fading.
Untitled: Hmm. Funky. Ass. Jolly Ranchers. Pointless.
Stem/Long Stem/Transmission #2: Oh, I know this of course. But is this the original, or Shadow’s take? Assuming it is Shadow messing with the piece that I know. Sudden funky shift. Violins. Beer adverts. More funk. Speed collapse. Headbang. Silence. Organ. Dings. Outstanding warrants. Guitars. Soothing. Sunrise. More beer. Fading. More soothing wavey sounds. Pianos. Prince Of Darkness again.
Mutual Slump: Drums. Organ. Chaos. Xanadu. Vader. Trumpet screeches. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Robots eating spaghetti. Lasers bouncing around a U-bend.
Organ Donor: More ghetto bits. More organ. More drums. Organ solo. Funhouse drunkage. Back around for more.
Why Hip Hop Sucks in 96: Seventies cop shows. LA skyline. Flat streets with faded yellow marking.
Midnight In A Perfect World: Soothing synths again. I sense a pattern here. Guitars. Woman singing. Clocks. Midnight!
Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain: Grunting. Laughter. Checkers. Drums. Silence. Drums. Guitars and throbbing. Typewriter drums. Tribal bongs. Knocking. Faster. Groovy. WipEout. Funky sounds return. Nice strings. Nice guitars. Saying goodbye, Hollywood style. Sounds familiar.
What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 Blue Sky Revisit)/Transmission #3: Guess what? Soothing sounds and hissing symbols. Repeatrepeatrepeatslightshiftrepeat. Scratch. Carpenter again. Great film. Oh, Twin Peaks Mr Giant. Twin Peaks – a sampler’s wet dream. End.
Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 208/1000
What I Learned: I know a thing or twelve about sampling (I don’t). If you’ve ever visiting my Youtube Channel (and may God have mercy on anyone who has) then you’ll know that I have created a number of mega hits entirely built from samples of other tracks, my own voice, and text to speech software. I needed no fancy software or skills, in fact the only tool used was a simple Windows Media Recorder with record, slow down, speed up, and reverse capabilities, absolutely nothing else. But I do that for my own amusement and to satirize exactly this sort of music. All sorts of music really, but particular the good old bedroom samplers. I haven’t done one a while, I must make another (Here’s a handy link if you want your ears to be scarred – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPvfbVJtjfw note – I have hundreds of these things made already, but when uploading to Youtube I usually make a silly accompanying video too). Anyway, the guy likes to use samples from a variety of places, and here has created a set of soothing tracks that don’t have a lot of variety. I imagine you can gleam whatever meaning you want from atmospheric music such as this; I’m leaning to wards urban alienation. I can understand why people love this. It’s fine for me, just not my bag.
Does It Deserve A Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Once we again we’ll have to fall back on the old ‘importance’ argument rather than the quality of the music. Samples had been used in music for decades before this, but I assume this took things to a new level. The production sounds superb, and there is a terrific range of samples. To me though, each track merges a little too neatly into the next and it’s difficult to differentiate each track from the other. That may have more to do with my tastes and the fact that I’ve only just listened to it once in a single sitting. I can credit DJ Shadow for mashing it all together, but still much of the credit has to go to the original writers. If anything, these types of albums and tracks make me want to go back and listen to the original. That’s no bad thing, but I wouldn’t consider it a plus for the remix/sample mash-up/whatever the term is. Would it appear on my list of top 100 albums? Not a chance, but then I weigh qualities evenly (See my Nightman scoring system – https://wordpress.com/post/10989249/632/) so that importance and influence are equally important to a variety of other categories. If this was indeed influential and creating a number of new recording and sampling techniques, then good job. It’s not the sort of thing I can see myself listening to again, but at least now I can say that I have heard a DJ Shadow record. Yay me!
Let me know what a Neanderthal I am in the comments for not appreciating how groundbreaking and provocative this album is and offer some suggestions on what I should do to better my life.