November 23, 2010
Review: Introducing Play Endtroducing
Introducing Plays DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing
Friday 19th November 2010.
Introducing play DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing: Re-envisioning a Classic.
14 years on from its release, half-band half-art project make sure that Endtroducing isn’t left in the shadows…
“Today is a special birthday,” Introducing front man Ollie Grig tells a sold out Koko, “DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing, the reason you’re all here, is 14 today”. Even those who don’t know DJ Shadow (real name Josh Davis) will have heard his music on adverts or moody, hard-hitting documentaries. However, last night the Californian was nowhere to be seen. On stage instead was a tribute act with a difference.
Introducing is a project set up by guitarist Matt Derbyshire to recreate, in full and in chronological order, Shadow’s eponymous 1996 debut, trip-hop/instrumental hip-hop classic Endtroducing…, the first album ever to be produced entirely from sampled music and sounds (as recognised by the Guiness Book of Records). Derbyshire and his band have meticulously transposed the whole thing on to live instruments, making this performance more of an exercise in artistic juxtaposition than a gig. “I think we’ve only got one loop in the whole set, and the concept of backing tracks was outlawed from day one!” he explained in a recent interview.
By the time opener Building Steam with a Grain of Salt had reached its scattergun drum break, replicated beat for beat in its complex entirety by drummer Mike Reed, it was clear that this was a project of dedication and reverence for a highly influential album. A great example was in the way that the band treated the small scraps of incidental sound and music that act as the album’s interludes, giving them as much time and attention as the longer pieces. Shadow’s mid-album break of Untitled, a fragment of sampled funk with a humorous monologue on top, was executed perfectly. Grig admitted “I’ve always loved that skit, but it was always too damn short!”, before leading the band into an extended version of the track’s original, Grey Boy by Human Race. The hypnotism of What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4) had heads nodding metronomically from the band to the back of the crowd, semi-psychedelic visuals projected onto the huge wall behind the stage. Some of the album’s more subtle points, such as the conceptual Stem/Long Stem, were drowned out by a drumming assault – attaining sufficient instrument definition when recreating an album of such sonic perfection live was always going to be a challenge. Rob Pollard’s rumbling bass and Mick Gilbert’s saxophone on fought their way through Changeling, while the intro to breakbeat classic Organ Doner received the biggest cheer of the night, its organ solo milked one-handed by Andy Leung.
Endtroducing was never designed to be played live in this linear form, and the slower songs towards the end of the tracklisting, such as Midnight in a Perfect World and Napalm Brain-Scatter Brain, had the crowd drifting off slightly. In this respect, the band’s faithfulness to their original blueprint was working against them, and they shrewdly turned closer What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1) into an up-tempo breakbeat jam.
As a huge fan of Endtroducing and all that it bred, the evening was nostalgic; a yearning for a time when beats were this hypnotic and atmospheric. As one satisfied fan put it on their way out, “that was pure reminiscence therapy”.