DJ Shadow: The Mountain Will Fall  Review

By Ché Salgado
Music Reviewer

Artist: DJ Shadow
Album: The Mountain Will Fall
Released: June 24, 2016
Label: Mass Appeal
Website: http://djshadow.com/

Che Salgado
Photo via Flickr

It must be exhausting to be Josh Davis, more commonly known as DJ Shadow, an artist for whom every record release has high stakes. For better or worse, every record he’s released and will release has been and will inevitably be compared to his two most definitive works. 1996’s Endtroducing….., a perfect, genre-defining classic, one of the best debut albums there’s ever been, and 1998’s Preemptive Strike, a singles compilation that collects Davis’ singles leading up to Endtroducing….., and the ones released in its wake. There had never been anything like the music on these records before; nobody had ever made a whole record completely made from the sounds of other records. The music on these -especially Endtroducing….., the more fully-formed of the two- is so much more than the sum of its parts, the songs on these records create moods, they don’t compliment them. For better or for worse, Josh Davis will always have his latest release stacked up against these two landmark records.

All of which brings us to The Mountain Will Fall, Davis’ fifth record and his first in five years, released on Nas’ Mass Appeal imprint. If you took all the provided context as a euphemism to say “this record isn’t as good as past DJ Shadow ventures”, you were right, congratulations, but that doesn’t mean this record is totally without merit, some impressive tricks are pulled off here. In a post-“Frankie Sinatra” (a disappointing Avalanches single) world, it’s nice to see Run the Jewels hop on “Nobody Speak” and thoroughly kill it. And it’s not as though Davis has lost his powers, many of these songs still have the dour mood that makes his first two records so great, “Bergschrund” (featuring German musician, Nils Frahm) is a perfect example of this, as well as highlight track “Ashes to Oceans” which features UK trumpeter, Matthew Halsall. Davis is still hitting the same buttons he was in the middle and late ‘90s, only now he’s doing it with more sounds, new sounds, his own sounds, again, for better or for worse. But despite a handful of stellar tracks and an eclectically impressive feature list, The Mountain Will Fall still comes up short of greatness, instead settling into a meandering mediocrity. And that’s largely to do with these aforementioned “new sounds”, while some are hits (“Pitter Patter”), many are misses (“Depth Charge”) and Davis ends up pulling the same tricks as amateur high school beat-makers which wouldn’t sting so much if this wasn’t DJ Shadow we were talking about; DJ Shadow the innovator, DJ Shadow the visionary, the first person to compile a record totally from samples and then abandon the method so as to not get stale, again, for better or for worse. Ultimately, while The Mountain Will Fall has some great moments, for those familiar with the DJ Shadow legacy, this record is disappointingly nonessential.

James Jordan II

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