Ever since the release of his debut album, the 1996 masterpiece Endtroducing….., DJ Shadow has faced scrutiny with each subsequent album. Some complain he’s repeating himself and becoming stagnant; others say he’s straying away from what made him popular in the first place. The truth is that DJ Shadow does things exactly the way he wants to. If you don’t get it, then that’s fine because Shadow knows what works and that’s all that matters.
His fifth album, The Mountain Will Fall, is certainly exciting. While the sounds are varied, there is never any doubt that is anyone other than Shadow is behind the boards. You see, he is the master of of his own musical destiny and he has never compromised his sound since the beginning of his career.
Mountain…. opens with the cinematic title track that starts off as a sprawling journey through different sounds. It’s a song that leads into the manic hip-hop of “The Sideshow” featuring Ernie Fresh; the throbbing drums and furious energy of “Ghost Town” and the minimal effectiveness of “Mambo.” And that’s just for starters.
From the menacing “Depth Charge” to the funky but always threatening “Nobody Speak” featuring Run The Jewels (DJ Shadow proclaimed on the Endtroducing….. track “Why Hip Hop Sucks In 96.” If you changed the year in the title to 2016, there is a lot to choose from but that could not be leveled at Killer Mike and EL-P who simply slay this track as they always do.)
There is a hardcore side to the album. Just check out Shadow’s love letter to his hometown state, the banging “California,” a track complete with head crushing beats and classic G Funk loops. He is ably assisted by the more calming tracks such as the electronic quirk of “Bergschrund,” a track featuring Nils Frahm, and the haunting closing track “Suicide Pact,” a song that concludes the album on a somber and reflective note.
With The Mountain Will Fall, DJ Shadow has made an album that is ready made for the contemporary dance floor — some of the beats on here could only come from the past couple of years — but also for peaceful contemplation. And that is the beauty of the album—first and foremost it shows Shadow at his eclectic best and proves exactly why he is one of the best beatmasters ever. He has definitely done himself proud once again.