Review of The Mountain Will Fall Album by DJ Shadow

The twenty years that have elapsed since Josh Davis released his début Entroducing make for neat symmetry when considering The Mountain Will Fall, but little else. Widely acknowledged as one of the most influential hip-hop records of all time - a title it might still possess were it not for the release nine years later of J Dilla's Donuts - Davis' sampleadelic master work took the very precepts of music assembly and turned them on its head, but rather than be defined by it, the producer has spent the last two decades trying to keep it's unending fascination very much at a safe distance.

DJ Shadow The Mountain Will Fall Album

It's been five years since his last ride The Less You Know, The Better (Although in shorter form 2014's The Liquid Amber EP helped launch his label of the same name) and whether deliberately or not, The Mountain Will Fall arrives in broadly the same moment as The Avalanches Wildflower, each boasting collaborations with hip hop royalty and both in the roughly adjacent beat science space.

Whilst the Australians have opted for a suitably unhinged (And not in truth entirely coherent) dreamscape/travelogue, Davis himself has gone for the less surreal: Nobody Speak, featuring re-energised veterans Run The Jewels comes sound tracked with what sounds like surf pop twisted around The Gimp's ball gag, cinematic-bold, road music but for those who only want to drive around the concrete jungle. In terms of style this lyrical base is much more of an exception than a rule: Ernie Fresh rhymes over what sounds like scratchy cut ups from a late eighties block party, whilst only G Jones & Bleep Bloop on the bassline stub of Pitter Patter otherwise give the impression that there are any intentful spirits in the machine.

Machines in fact are more where Davis is at, Ableton replacing his previously more organic way of working - at least for the time being. Whilst this will be a relief to any of us who've had to spend their time at a show with only a crate digging obsessive for company playing spot-the-joins, you can't help but feel some of the attendant humanity has been lost in the process. This may seem like an odd concept given that much of his canon was assembled from a carefully managed state of discombobulation, but whilst tracks like Depth Charge, Ghost Town and the layered and multi frequencied California are very much of the dystopian 21st century, that next ingenious drop often hangs unfulfilled in the ether.

This decision to replace one science for another was a conscious one, as much as choosing to limit the number of guests in order to deliberately flout the current preference for littering work with a coterie of significant others. The roster may be light, but it's the German modern composer Nils Frahm who sparks When The Mountain Fall's moment to most cherish, the Kraftwerkian scales and crunchy, post Boards of Canada breaks of Bergschrund taking the notion of programmable grooves and delivering the FUN in funky, weird but warm, vibrant and impetuous, a post-curation vibe like humans sometimes are.

There's very much a strength of conviction in remaining what you were, but arguably more so in becoming what you want to be and For Josh Davis the past is now not so much a different country but still a state lurking round every corner. On When The Mountain Falls he's made sounds that prove he still has nothing to prove: as an artist no longer chained to any other notion than himself, the possibilities remain endless, if not always ones we fully understand.

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