DJ Shadow’s Entroducing….., which was released on 16 September 1996 (25 years ago today) is arguably the finest example of plunderphonics – a musical genre coined by composer John Oswald, defined as ‘audio piracy as a compositional prerogative’.
Created almost entirely from samples from Shadow’s (aka Josh Davis’) extensive vinyl collection, many of which were sourced at Sacramento’s Rare Records – the record shop featured on the album sleeve – Entroducing took two years to complete.
His setup, as he explained to Keyboard magazine in 1997, consisted of just a Akai MPC-60 sampler, a Technics 1200, and an Alesis ADAT – which while basic, was a step up from the four-track recorder Davis had used for his early productions.
“I did the album on the MPC-60 MKII, with nothing else, really,” he explained. “It was truly an exploration, as it was with the 4-track. By the time I got the MPC, I was so ready for something new. I mean, I’d taken the 4-track to the limit, doing everything from putting the tape in on the other side for reverse loops, to everything I could possibly think of, and there was nothing more for me to do with it, and it was really depressing.”
While the majority of Entroducing features a range of more obscure artists, there are also a couple of prominent inclusions during this sonic maelstrom – Metallica and Björk make a brief appearance at some point, as does cult TV show Twin Peaks (“It is happening again…”).
Blending hip hop, funk, soul, rock and ambient, Entroducing arguably sounds as fresh today as it did upon its release – “a symphonic fantasia, the coming-of-age story of a 24-year-old bunk-bed dreamer”, as Spin magazine put it at the time.
To mark the anniversary of its release, 909originals selects five samples that helped to define this seminal album.
Giorgio Moroder – Tears (sampled on Stem/Long Stem and Organ Donor)
One of Entroducing‘s pivotal moments is lifted from the back catalogue of arguably the greatest electronic composer of all time – albeit from the time when the Italian maestro was better known for psychedelic rock than synthesised beats.
Tears closes Giorgio Moroder’s 1972 album Son Of My Father (the title track of which has been long adopted as a popular football chant). It’s two minutes and 20 seconds of arpeggiated brilliance, and perfectly suited to Entroducing‘s more melancholic moments.
Jeremy Storch – I Feel A New Shadow (sampled on Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt)
During the 60s, Jeremy Storch was the organ/keyboard player with Long Island-based garage rock band The Vagrants – a band better known for their energetic live covers of Motown staples such as Gimme Some Lovin’ and Hold On I’m Comin‘ than for their own work (1966’s I Can’t Make a Friend is probably their best known track).
In 1970, Storch released his debut solo album, From A Naked Window, which features, tucked away on Side B, the track I Feel A New Shadow, the opening piano refrain of which is unmistakable from Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt, the first ‘proper’ track on Entroducing.
Plus, the fact that the title of the track includes the word ‘Shadow’ was probably too delicious for Davis to ignore, we suspect.
Metallica – Orion (sampled on The Number Song)
The Number Song is the most complex track on Entroducing, featuring snippets from A Tribe Called Quest, Pink Floyd, Grandmaster Flash, T La Rock and the movie Wild Style, among others, but it’s the unlikely use of Metallica’s instrumental masterpiece Orion that gives the track its ethereal atmosphere.
Orion was written by Metallica’s James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and bassist Cliff Burton, the latter of which died during a bus accident in Sweden while the band were promoting the album Master of Puppets. Unlike tracks such as Battery, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Damage, Inc and the album’s title track, Orion is one of the least-played live tracks in Metallica’s back catalogue, no doubt making its appearance on Entroducing less obvious to the casual listener.
David Axelrod – The Human Abstract (sampled on Midnight In A Perfect World)
California native David Axelrod started his career as a jazz producer, before embarking on a solo career in the late 60s that showcased both his artistic leanings and a range of avant garde themes, such as his 1968 album Song of Innocence, and its follow up Songs of Experience, both based on the poetry of William Blake.
It was the latter long player that featured The Human Abstract on its flip side, a subtle piano elegy that was described by Mojo as evoking “the view from [Love frontman] Arthur Lee’s castle of an endless pale blue sky and the vast deathly city beneath it”.
Equal parts blissful and bleak, it forms the perfect backdrop for Midnight In A Perfect World, with its doomsday-esque evocations, also incorporating the bassline from Pekka Pohjola’s The Madness Subsides.
Nirvana – Love Suite (sampled on Stem/Long Stem)
No, not that Nirvana. Before Kurt Cobain ever learned to pick up a guitar, British psychedelic pop band Nirvana were creating a litany of baroque pop and progressive rock compositions during the 1960s – their debut, The Story of Simon Simopath, was an early concept album, while its follow up, The Existence of Chance Is Everything and Nothing While the Greatest Achievement Is the Living of Life, and so Say ALL OF US, was, as you can imagine from its title, a lysergic odyssey.
Tucked away at the tail end of the groups 1969 album Dedicated To Markos III is Love Suite, a largely pop-influenced jazz fusion track, with vocals by Lesley Duncan. But the opening seconds are pure bliss, a delicate melody that haunts the listener, and was an inspired choice by DJ Shadow for the introspective Stem/Long Stem.
The marrying of this with a vocal snippet from The Mystic Number National Bank’s Blues So Bad (“I tell ya children I could lay right down”) along with machine-gun drums, creates one of Entroducing‘s epoch-defining moments.
[Feel free to share your memories of DJ Shadow’s Entroducing, or any thoughts on the samples used therein, in the comments below.]