In/Flux - DJ Shadow - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #56

I know, I know, more DJ Shadow, like anyone apart from me even cares. If you’ll permit me to indulge myself this time (because I NEVER do that) I’m going to talk you through a solitary piece of his music, not even a an album, merely a single: In/Flux. One of his first on James Lavelle’s Mo’Wax label, In/Flux was one of the songs responsible for the coining of the phrase “trip hop” to describe the music. A mix of hip-hop, soundbytes about social upheaval and mind-bending garble, it stands as perhaps Shadow’s most accomplished work, although it’s far from my favourite. In fact the more I think about it, the more I think it’s possibly one of the most perfectly constructed pieces of music ever produced.

“A song about life, death, love, hate, wealth, poverty, racism. Just a few things ‘been runnin’ through my head.” An opening statement of considerable audacity but not one without merit. In come the drums shortly, lazy, repetitive, setting the wheels in motion. Another sample, languidly drawling over the drums, speaks about upheaval and the fear people feel when the word “overthrow” is mentioned. A timely point for the bassline to come in methinks, and what a bassline… booming and trippy, but felicitous nonetheless. At this point firmly locked in the tight jam, Shadow splashes a few more colours onto the musical palate: a flute loop, some delicate strings, more vocal samples, leading us on a loose journey about anarchy and peaceful rebellion. Has such a story ever been told in such a way? I don’t think so. Nearly four minutes in there’s a short relief from the drums, giving way to a short section (over another tidy bassline, no doubt… he does know how to pick ‘em) with a vocal sample telling about the dangers of “Social narcotics.... that’s the narcotic that’s injected into the minds of infants.” And then we’re right back into it.

“So you know as well as I do that things are changing?” The second section returns to the original bass/drum pattern, adding in a few late-night downtown Chicago trumpets… no driving tonight sir, you’ve had too much. It’s all too much. This bass, these drums… they’re getting into my head! Am I in the middle of a political demonstration or am I just dreaming, what’s going on? Boom, we hit the middle section. “Meanwhile uptown, the DJ player…” Well, this DJ player wants to mess with your head now. You know that bit in the middle of Hendrix’s 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) with all the oceanic, left-to-right panning sounds, a total mindwarp? Shadow’s doing something similar here, throwing in a lot of delay, adding a few ghostly scratches and more samples about “revolution!” and “Change, you know?” From nowhere comes a thumping, almost militant drum sample, as if to rouse us from our daydreams and realize that change is in fact possible and we can make it happen. Quite an appropriate vocal sample to insert here: (would you expect anything less?) “So I say to you youngsters– work to change the system.” We’ve come full circle, ending with the same groove as we begun, or so you think: right after the fade out, a voice comes in, saying “the record ends and we must begin again!” before fading out for a second time in a haze. A fairly obvious parallel with the revolutionary message contained herein, at once claiming that music is revolution-inducing (which it is, look no further than punk, rock n’ roll etc) and that revolution, like music, is ongoing and, when the time is right, “We must begin again.” Amen, sir.

Words - Adam

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