DJ Shadow: The Mountain Will Fall

Twenty years ago, turntable virtuoso Josh Davis – better known as DJ Shadow, left an enduring legacy on modern music with his groundbreaking debut Endtroducing… Credited as being almost solely responsible for the birth of crossover hip-hop, Davis wielded an almost spiritual intuition for sampled beats and ambient electronica. Since then, he’s struggled to match that benchmark, with a slew of underwhelming long players that demonstrated technical skills, but fell somewhat short in terms of engaging melodics.
So is The Mountain Will Fall a fitting return to form for the Californian decks whizz? Ummmmm, no. Not really. It all starts promisingly enough – the swirling electronic strings and relentless shuffling beats of the opening title track recall vintage Shadow, all confidently cinematic with a fair wallop of gravitas on the side. “Nobody Speak” featuring NYC hip-hop royalty Run The Jewels, and block-party jam “The Sideshow” with guest vocals from Ernie Fresh are solid hip-hop numbers thanks to the inspired collaborations and upbeat momentum.
Sadly it’s not to last though – the aforementioned retro raps are something of an anomaly amongst an otherwise fairly bleak and barren album. “Depth Charge” is all build up with no overture, “Three Ralphs” is a three-and-a-half minute interlude that’s three minutes too long, and “Mambo” is about as far from its namesake as you can get, the metallic dirge sounding instead like a bunch of watch springs pinging off into the void. “Ashes to Oceans” doesn’t do much better, bogged down with plinking warped strings, as if someone has taken a pair of pliers to a guitar. Even through a good set of cans, the whole thing feels tinny, with a noticeable lack in the kind of storming bass that made “Midnight in a Perfect World” and “Building Steam…” such head-nodding cuts.
In his defence, Davis is obviously still having a ball making this kind of music. Although things have moved on a lot from rummaging around for obscure vinyl in record store bins, he’s still experimenting, trying new stuff out and pretty much just doing what DJs do. It’s an admirable notion, but with a bit more of an attuned ear this could have been a much more palatable record.
Dan Ashcroft.

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