Category Archives: vocal samples

DJ Shadow Entroducing

Entroducing – DJ Shadow
If you need to send your brain to disneyland while you sink into some seriously deep grooves this is the album for you. Either way, it’s one of those albums that changed music, and showed what was possible when an amazing DJ flexes his mixing muscles, but serves the music.

Like most great albums and ones you can work to it takes you on a journey. It starts with samples and an introduction that might make you think it’s going to be a schizophrenic musical odyssey just before you hear, “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt.” When the bass kicks in a most relaxed way, you get a feeling for the  groove that marks this album out like an albino at a tanning salon.

A mix of hip hop, samples, ambient, and light electronic. The whole album was recorded at DJ Shadow’s house, with minimal technology, before he finished it off at the studio of Dan the automator.  Now this kind of mix of genre and beats is commonplace, but at the time was a landmark of groove and production. The album is a stand out and has not aged.

Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead have cited it as a key influence on the making of OK Computer. This is an album a lot of musicians love, so it inspired a lot of the music of the late nineties. Entroducing made it bigger in the UK than the US, but has grown as a classic album beloved by many, including critics.

There was talk of it being the world’s sample only album, but there are spoken word parts  that have not come from samples. It sampled  David Axelrod, Nirvana, Bjork, T-Rex, Marlena Shaw, and Twin Peaks to name a few.


No only samples. Shadow’s aim was to make a completely sample based piece of music, and it makes do with only a few vocal contributions from Gift of Gab and Lyrics Born.

Slow groove music, instrumental hip hop, electronic

Good to work to
This is a slow groove album. One I love listening to, and takes me into a relaxed place. For listeners who aren’t used to listening to any hip hop, or sampling, i.e. Not listening to music in coffee shops, the samples may grate to some extent to some extent, but they are purely part of the musical journey, and can help provide mini-breaks or re-sets in your thinking.

While this kind of album that is commonplace now, at the time it was groundbreaking. It’s  still a classic album. This genre of instrumental hip hop and house music is very main stream now. I can see aspects of this in artists like Bonobo, and lots of mood DJs like Wax Tailor. DJ Shadow takes it to a darker place.

The Artist/s
DJ Shadow aka Josh Davis is one of the world’s most influential DJs.

Other works
It’s a great mix with samples and nods to tracks such as Tears by Giorgio Moroder in Blood Donor. It leads to a lot of music, but this is perhaps what I’d see first.

The story is that after this album he realised that most of the money was going to the many people he had sampled when it was a high selling album. DJ Shadow followed it up with “The Private Press” another well received album, although his later output has not scaled the same heights as Entroducing.

Lovers of the slow groove may also like Bonobo, but Entroducing is definitely the superior album

For some reason this album reminds me of the Bitches Brew, a similarly dark cut and paste album you can read about.

He has some good albums, but his latest is my favourite  at the moment. The Mountain with Fall, a different style album with tracks with collaborators like Run the Jewels rapping on the second track.


Where Can I buy it, and in what formats
You can get this album anywhere. I’ve had it in multiple formats, I love my vinyl copy, but iTunes is as good a place as any to get a copy.

The Verdict
I can’t recommend this album enough, but it’s not going to work as a writing album for everyone. You’ve got to be able to relax into these grooves for it to work for you. For me it takes me to another place.

Four Tet – There is love in you

There is love in you is an up-tempo delight. Electonic fizzes, with touches of more organic sounds with a deep melodic sensibility takes you on a worthwhile journey.  While categorised as ambient electronica which it is, the whole picture is more. While not an underground album, you aren’t going to hear it on any hits and memories radio stations.

Like all Four Tet productions there is a mastery of the different frequencies displayed throughout along with great arrangements that set this album and artist apart from so many other artists in the field. Not much to say about this album, as it is a guaranteed winner no questions asked.


No lyrics, all low key beats, with some vocal samples, despite this I would not classify it as an album with lyrics.

The mood of this album is consistently cull.

Good to work to
This is an absolute cracker for those who want some low level beats with pace, but without anything distraction. I could write and encyclopedia while listening to this music, it is absolute quality.

I find similarities to the minimalist works of Reich and Glass in that you feel like you’ve been taken on a thematic musical journey without any of the bumps you might expect along the road. Maybe a slice of Bonobo thrown in, but on the whole less a house music work, and more a thematic one.

I would dive into his back catalogue before bothering to explore any other artists, that’s where the gold is.

The Artist/s
Four Tet is Kieran Hebden a London DJ with serious street creed in the music world with sales to back it up. H was formerly in the band Fridge before branching out and outshining his former band. He is super popular and has collaborated with lots of big UK acts like Radiohead, Aprex Twin and Black Sabbath.

You can check out his website at

Other works
You will be spoiled for choice with Four Tet album although I rate this one as definitely the best for writing to. The other albums are also pretty good and there are a lot to choose from, but the two that have caught my ear are Rounds which has a slightly different vibe, and Morning Side his most recent album as I write this in early 2016.

Rounds whilst less thematic than There is Love in You, takes you on a journey you will find rewarding if you liked it.

Morning / Evening, is thematic in that there are only two tracks, one morning side with a touch of female Indian vocals and the other evening side. I rate this album, but like Rounds, one for those who are already on board with this one.

Where Can I buy it, and in what formats
You can find this album on iTunes and the vinyl was fairly easy to get online also.

The Verdict
Click on the link, or get on your bike down to your local record store and buy it. If you need to write, say no more, this album delivers the goods.

Micachu and the Shapes with the London Sinfionetta – Chopped and Screwed

Micachu and the Shapes with the London Sinfionetta- Chopped and Screwed

This is a menacing moody dissonant masterpiece, with all the off centre features of Micachu and the shapes song transcribed into an orchestral setting. Not everyone can pull off dissonant in a satisfyingly musical manner, but Micachu and the shapes have the chops to pull it off. That said there are more than a few songs with vocals and a few hooks to hold onto.

I came to Micachu and the Shapes after hearing they were Bjork’s favourite band for a period of time. They are usually catchy melody driven dissonant pop songs. This album is anything but that, there are some recognisable elements but this is a true artistic departure from that known way.

Even from their elarlier debut album, you could tell they were super talented to twist such catchy pop songs in a way that didn’t distort it away from the song. I don’t find any weird for weirds sake posing in the way they put toether songs.

2011, through Rough Trade

There are some lyrics but they blend into a soundscape more than ever taking centre stage.

Mood –
While there are inherently menacing elements to a musical palatte that leans so heavily on dissonance. Paradoxically there is a warmth throughout the numbers on this album which are absolutely delightful.

Good to work to –
I find this album to be great for putting me into a mood that allows me to keep on going and block out the world really effectively.

I could possibly put it into the minimalist classical school. But that is most probably a misnomer, as the songs are only repetitve in theme for a length of time more similar to a pop album, than as opposed to something like Steven Reich or something like that.

The Artist/s – Micachu and the Shapes with the London Sinfionetta
The London Sinfionetta are classical muscians first and foremost, but they are part of a body that promotes new contemporary music. I had a quick look on the web and they seem to have played on lots of things, but they’re not like a band or something. They sound pretty darn fine to me though. You can go on their site and check out many of their other collaborations and listen and watch.

Micachu and the Shapes are
Mica Levi – vocals
Raisa Khan – Keyboards
Mark Pell – drums

Micachu and the sahpes specialise in differnet time signatures, distortion, non-standard tunings, found object intruments and generally putting a different slant on classic pop. This album is nothing like there standard though.

Other works
If you are curious about Micachu and the shapes they have an absolutely transcendent alternative pop album. Starting out with Jewellry which I think every household should have. It is such a sunny beautiful weird album you can’t go wrong.

If you are interested in hearing some mix tapes in a completely different style, there are several available online for free download

Where Can I buy it, and in what formats
You can find this album on iTunes and the link is shown below, there was also a limited edition album version on vinyl. This is one of my favourite albums, and it is just great to get into a different headspace.

The Verdict
Yes, it’s great, but maybe have a listen to it first at the iTunes link above and see if it’s your cup of tea

Lemon Jelly – LemonJelly.KY

Lemon Jelly – Lemonjelly.KY
This is a light and fun electronica album pefect for bopping along to when you want to write. It’s also great album to bop along to while you’re cooking your dinner or even feeding the cat.

LemonJelly.KY was the first Lemon Jelly album, and is a mix of the first three EPs they released.

The thing that grabs you first about Lemon Jelly is the unique cover design. It’s no surprise that one half of Lemon Jelly is a graphic designer. You just want to play it when you see the brightly coloured looking cover which perfectly matches the music as well. It carries a real lightness about it.

It has been sampled and used in various soundtracks (Including one of my all-time favourite TV shows, SPACED) but this album works for anything.


Samples are used but it’s not a lyrical album. Sampes range from such great lines as ‘what do you do in the bath.’ Other songs like ‘the Staunton lick’ are pure instrumentals that work. One of my favourite’s Nervous tension uses samples from a South African psychologist’s album for relaxation.

The lyrics are of course quite incidental, so you will never have to worry that they will overwhelm you.

LemonJelly.KY and basically all of the Lemon Jelly music is great for doing anything. I don’t know anyone who doens’t feel lifted after they listen to Lemon Jelly. It doesn’t take over, but it definitely lightens everything up which is a good thing.

Good to work to
A very light album that works for everything.

Upbeat house groove, and more generally electronic music. Obviously I’d say Lost Horizon the album by Lemon Jelly that came after this is in the same vibe, the other later albums (called 64-95) went in a more up-tempo direction, that is great but is not as friendly, which may be more helpful for wrinting. I’d say if you like this one,  definitely get lost horizon. It’s great.

I hesitate to compare this album with much else, as it has a real happy house, summer sound to it more than a particular musical sound.

The Artist/s
Lemon Jelly is Fred Deakin and Nick Franglen. They are both from London, and were in the same crowd without ever being mates until ten years later. Deakin started a graphic arts company and DJ’d, while Franglen worked as a landscape gardner then as a studio programmer for some big acts (n.b. no idea what a studio planner is).

There early Eps went well they got picked up by a label and discovered people really liked their music. The first album in 2000 was Lemonjelly.KY, the second was this one, followed by 64-95 which is music using samples from each of the years. They decided to have a break in 2008, and their website says they’s be coming back.

Other works
Lemon Jelly’s later album Lost Horizon fits in the same mould, and just as good. There other major album is called ’64 to 95’ an album that is great but has a very different feel to this and Lost Horizon. I will have to have a think about whether or not I would put it in this category of good work albums, but  don’t think it will make it.

There is one extra piece I would recommend which was a kind of sampler mix tape they put together. My lady friend happened to get a copy of when she met the graphic designer for there albums at a conference. I never found out what it was called and it’s more a party album than a writing album, but it is also great.

Where Can I buy it, and in what formats
You should be able to get this album on CD and as MP3 most places. I did at one stage search for it on vinyl, but this is another of those rare treasures that don’t last long on vinyl and are a gazillion dollars second hand. At this stage I don’t think it is going to be repressed any time soon.

The Verdict
Another album I absolutely love. It is very easy going and light. Certainly not the album I’d use to listen to for every type of running.