DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing has spawned countless imitators since its release almost a decade ago, but it still sounds unique. On this, his first full-length, Diplo has delivered a sound just as inimitable and fully formed; but where Shadow’s soundscapes were by turn paranoid, menacing and ethereal, Florida rides stuttering crunk drum programming and warm basslines into much sunnier, swampier terrain.
“It feels like my head is about the size of the sky” goes a sample over the rustling organ groove of the epic “Works”, and this sums up the loose drifting of Diplo’s anything-goes instrumental approach nicely. The eight minute “Summer’s Gonna Hurt You” starts out with the sound of an orchestra tuning up, then a groove slowly builds over the looped string sample, with shuffling percussion and double bass plucks being joined by muted horns and effects as the track’s gorgeous sampled vocals enter. Then the fat beat mashes in, all crisp Timbaland jerks, and the bass goes fluid and circular. Diplo lets things coast into a breakdown before bringing in an equally lovely South American vocal to make a pseudo-duet, before stretching it into a massive soft cloud whilst electro synth stabs round off the bassline.
If this description sounds eclectic and challenging, in practice this stew of jazz, funk, rock, electronica and Indian strings remains immediate and fun; Diplo’s not trying to be obtuse, just himself. Yet he plays very well with others, as stand-out collaborations with the strangely uncredited Martina Topley-Bird (on the deliriously sensuous “Into The Sun (ft. Martina Topley-Bird)”) and P.E.A.C.E. of the Freestyle Fellowship prove. “Diplo Rhythm (ft. Sandra Melody / Pantera Os Danadinhos)” is a slight disappointment though, as the slow percussion seems strangely at odds with the massive, ondulating bassline; the whole crying out for an increase of tempo to really catch fire, whilst the toasting is slightly lacklustre.
Overall though, in a scene that still sucks for the same reasons it did in ’96 (made fun of here with the help of a candy-selling schoolkid on “Money, Power, Respect”), this is a strangely wonderful and staunchly individual record. Warm your souls and your subwoofers, journey to “Florida”.
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