Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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DJ Shadow (a/k/a Josh Davis) is a 24-year-old record collector from a college town in California who's famous in London for inventing what is called trip-hop. Armed with a sampler, a sequencer, and the vinyl he gave up on cataloguing in 1989, Shadow collages music out of other music the way early hip hop did, which isn't easy--Endtroducing . . . DJ Shadow (FFFR/Mo' Wax) took him six solid months. The 13 dense, varied tracks--some under a minute, some over nine--tend to be contemplative even if drum-driven. Less songs than compositions and designed for headphones rather than dance floors, their only vocals are sampled spoken-word and comedy bits. So curiosity seekers may not find them as evocative as do listeners on Shadow's wavelength. But they're so rich and eclectic, and spun out with such a sense of flow, that this album establishes the kind of convincing aural reality other British techno experimenters only fantasize about.

Comparatively more accessible is Pre-Millennium Tension (Island) by Tricky, who made his name if not fortune last year with the depressive trip-hop adventure Maxinquaye. Fame has rendered him a little jauntier, but anyone who wants a notion of how vastly disparate sampled textures can be should put his electronic doldrums up against the Text missing.

Playboy, Oct. 1996


Sept. 1996 Nov. 1996