DJ Shadow‘s newest offering The Mountain Will Fall starts really strong, the self titled opener comes in and packs a heavy punch. Then a cassette flips and you’ve got Run The Jewels‘ El-P yelling clever obscenities at you (“Flame your crew quicker than Trump fucks his youngest,”) over some sonically insane production.
But then the death pips from Jet Set Willy for the Commodore 64 come on and lead you into Three Ralphs, which is an alright track, but it’s slow, and after being so pumped from Run the Jewels’ feature it offsets the feel of the rest of the album. It’s a comedown, it’s jarring.
The album is full of these deeply introspective beats, but it just seems off course after those first two tracks, and for me it never comes back from it. It tries to on every song, and when it has a feature it does manage to come back to pack a punch but you’re never left reeling from it like you are from that real one-two at the beginning.
It just feels as though the features on this album take it to a place it doesn’t really want to go, like with Pitter Patter, with vocals from two characters called G. Jones and Bleep Bloop (which is the greatest artist pseudonym I’ve ever heard). Pitter Patter has some excellent guitars and samples, but it pulls away so much from the integral sound of the tracks where DJ Shadow was left to his own devices.
Depth Charge leads into Mambo, and while I really enjoy both songs on their own merits, and they really are spectacular on their own, neither fits the other, the album isn’t nearly as cohesive a record as I’d expected, its construction is almost shoddy.
DJ Shadow is a very good producer, that’s inherently clear, but on The Mountain Will Fall it just seems all… higglety pigglety, messy. There’s no set defined sound or feel to it, there are some thematic constraints, like how mortality keeps cropping up, but it just doesn’t feel like one single album.
While this album does have some of my favourite DJ Shadow songs on it, I’d much rather listen to The Outsider, his fourth album, released in 2006 in one session. It’s got that much more defined sense of self I know DJ Shadow can produce.
I don’t know if DJ Shadow wanted this album to rely on his own instrumental tracks, like Three Ralphs and California, as a backbone, while the feature tracks went off on tangents, but it hasn’t really convinced me. Though maybe my expectations were what blew it for me. And although it has some really good tracks and regardless of the album’s composition it is more excellent DJ Shadow beats, I just can’t find it in me to like this album.
-Owen Barnes (@GrungePrick)