DJ Shadow - The Mountain Will Fall - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

DJ Shadow - The Mountain Will Fall

by Justin Pearson Rating:7 Release Date:2016-06-24

Endtroducing, Josh Davis' debut album as DJ Shadow was a masterpiece of lost and found samples expertly culled into a nostalgic ode to vinyl culture, making it one of the emotional wollops of the 90's. The thing is, he's never set out to make another Endtroducing, something that fans and critics alike either accept or they don't. This is something that's been obvious if you've followed his career trajectory since that groundbreaking album. If you drop your expectations that any new DJ Shadow project will reach that calibre again, The Mountain Will Fall will reveal itself as an album that's continuing the trend of meandering in other directions, but with fewer missteps. No one understands this better than Davis himself, having talked with Pitchfork recently in an interview: "The same way I was trying to push the boundaries then, I'm trying to push my own boundaries now."

The Mountain Will Fall is mostly instrumental, and shows his cut/paste sampling to be taking a backseat in favor of varied guest appearances that add color to more original material. There are a couple exceptions, though, in the form of real time collaborations that pay homage to his old school style. 'The Sideshow' (feat. Ernie Fresh)' is classic Shadow, and 'Nobody Speak' (feat. Run the Jewels)' is full of shoot 'em up rhymes that mean business propelled by the frontier-like bravado that gives the song its electric charge.

The woozy, synth heavy title track 'The Mountain Will Fall' works perfectly as the album opener. It plays out like a breath of fresh air one inhales before embarking on an exploration, and it begs to be played at high volume - if not for the sheer sonics of the track, then simply for the purpose of heralding Shadow's return. 

While the rest of the album doesn't exactly unfold in as big of a way, it still feels appropriate given Davis' penchant for continued experimentation. He seems to be dabbling more in electronica, whether it be chopped up, stuttering beats ('Three Ralphs'), video game inspired blips and bleeps ('Mambo'), or intermittent bass drones leading to a high BPM freakout ('California').

Elements of his past work also show up in a couple spots. 'Depth Charge' is a good example of the building and layering he perfected on 2002's The Private Press, while 'Suicide Pact' also appears to have taken cues from that album as well with its downtempo, pitch-shifted vocal samples that create an eerie, yet oddly comforting atmosphere.

The Mountain Will Fall is a fitting (at times even excitingly unpredictable) work from an innovator who constantly seeks change, and even if there might still be some growing pains accompanying him on his journey as an artist, it shows that he's still relevant, humble even, if not altogether perfect. It's a return to form, even if that form is subject to a malleability that rejects a more smooth, pointed shape. In the same interview mentioned above, Davis referred to the title of the record and how the project seemed like an unconquerable mountain at the start: "There will be missteps but as long as the vision is whole, the mountain will fall." The important thing here is DJ Shadow is proving to at least still be fresh, and still deserving of the title "DJ" that precedes his now famous moniker.

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