Two, many DJs

When I was backpacking around Central America, my iPod started misbehaving and I ended up spending several long bus journeys listening to DJ Shadow‘s Endtroducing…. LP. A year later, on nighttime bus adventures in Nepal (better scenery, worse roads) and with a fully-functioning iPod, I found myself returning to this seminal album. Ever since, I’ve come to think of it as being ineluctably associated with exotic, far-flung places. All this, from a work of art pieced together in the most urban way possible, from hundreds of obscure, unloved vinyl records, and snippets of movie dialogue.

From those long, draining journeys, Endtroducing…. has come to stand as an emotional crutch for me. Those swirling clouds of droning jazz, shot through with entrancing rhythms and cyclical keyboard motifs, lift me out of the banal and the jejune, and into a fug of intense joy. The album’s highlights are like impossibly tall mountains: the breakbeat-led freak out freakout halfway through “Stem/Long Stem”—and the silky passage which follows it; the churning, phased Rhodes of “Transmission 2” which crop up again as the basis of “Midnight In A Perfect World” (moist eyes guaranteed on every listen); the slinky bass on which the first half of “Napalm Brain-Scatter Brain” rides, before being swallowed up by a crisp jungle workout. I lean on Endtroducing….’s shoulder, and it transports me into a smoky world of jazz clubs, alien visitations—and the cramped seats of a rickety third-world bus. I would gaze at the sleeping figure of a familiar friend, their once-golden skin lent an ashen fade from the diesel fumes pouring through the bus’s open window-slats, and gulp down DJ Shadow’s electrolytic elixir.

Those mournful horns in “Stem/Long Stem” bring to mind another groundbreaking work, by another DJ. At the heart of DJ /Rupture’s Uproot, a much-overlooked mix, lies “Plays John Cassavettes Pt. 2” by Ekkehard Ehlers. Beatless and euphoric yet tinged with sadness, it’s a truly magnificent composition, and forms the perfect interstitial barrier between the two halves of the record.

Before you get to those gorgeous strings, Uproot is an intoxicating brew of dubstep, ragga and dancehall, all forlorn parping keys and loping beats. Thereafter, the mix takes on a more politicised hue, with Stalker’s edgy “Radios Et Annonceurs” setting the tone for this more austere, stern turn of events. As the mix’s title suggests, and much like DJ Shadow’s magnum opus, Uproot literally digs you up, unwillingly, before planting you in foreign, unfamiliar terrain. But while Endtroducing…. is full of levity in its weirdness, DJ /Rupture provides a harsher collision of cultures and beliefs. Years later, they both remain beguiling and compelling listens, existing everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

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