Love Letter To A Record: Bag Raiders On DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Chris Stracey, Bag Raiders – Endtroducing by DJ Shadow (119)

Before streaming platform algorithms decided what we were going to like, discovering new music for me was a threefold activity which relied on friends, media outlets, and probably most importantly, the “cool person who worked at the record store”. The record store I frequented had a large selection of “imports” of rarer to find records, and since I was in there every week spending whatever money I had on music, it wasn’t long before the clerk knew my taste and started feeding me music he thought I would like. He became the sonic shaman to my high school bus ride experience. There was one album in particular which was on my highest rotation for at least two years (an unimaginable feat in today’s playlist era), and this album was Endtroducing by DJ Shadow.

Talk about the album that started it all. At 14 I had well and truly caught the music bug, was trying to learn 4 instruments at once and had filled 90% of my spare time with some sort of musical activity. But in all my musical encounters, I had never heard of music which was made without instruments, but entirely of samples of other music, re-arranged to create new music. This was a new concept to me at the time, and it really opened my ears as to what “music” could be.

This album is basically a collage work of the highest order, pieced together from recordings spanning decades and continents. It takes you to another world listening to it. It’s haunting, it’s soulful, it grooves, it’s exciting, it’s strange, it’s emotional. It was everything I had never heard hip hop do before. Were it not for a rap vocal sample here and some scratching there, you would just call it an experimental beat record.

To me, it was the most creative thing I’d heard in a long time, a wild approach to making music that I’d never thought of existing before. It completely blew me away at the time because the record to me had such a sound, such an identity. To think that this identity was in fact pieced together from dozens of other records had me spinning.

I put it in my Discman and listened to it religiously every morning on the way to school and every afternoon on the way home. I was under the spell of the repetitive piano loops of “building steam with a grain of salt”, I was in love with the hypnotic drums and vocals, and when the fancy drum programming came in at the end of that tune I was in heaven. The record has so many moments, so many ups and downs, so many interesting sounds. I used to put “Midnight in a perfect world” on repeat and listen to it for hours at a time…I was just mesmerised by the chords.

I experienced so much to this record, and I think that it was definitely one of the most important records I’ve ever heard in terms of making me realise that what I wanted to do with my life was make music. It was also instrumental in firing up my interest in a wide range of types of music, catapulting me into jazz and soul and searching for interesting experimental composers. I found out about so many amazing artists from looking up information about the samples that were used in the making of this record.

So thank-you DJ Shadow, thank-you Endtroducing, for what you awoke in me all those years ago, and what I’m still feeling on revisiting this record.

Big love, Chris.

Bag Raiders’ sophomore album ‘Horizons’ is out now.

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