In the (DJ) Shadow of The Mountain

It’s no secret that DJ Shadow is one of the greatest in the beat-maker world. With nearly 20 years of album making under his belt, DJ Shadow has both the skill and creativity to continue to collage sounds for new sounds. And his latest, The Mountain Will Fall, shows an artist at the top of their game. Jumping from 8-bit to horn-based hip hop anthems, from mellow electronica to house bangers, The Mountain Will Fall is a staggeringly diverse yet cohesive collection of songs.

The album starts with the title track, an amorphous soundscape of sawing textures. “The Mountain Will Fall” forebodes an album more in line with M83′s or Mogwai’s brands of music–slow and building. But DJ Shadow is not one to fit molds. Switching it up in the next track, the master brings in Run The Jewels to be his voice. “Nobody Speak” hits hard with brassy instrumentals and a guitar hook that doesn’t quit. Complete with brooding vocals, the song shows exactly what happens when geniuses collaborate.

Transitioning into the 8-bit turned drum collage dirge of “Three Ralphs,” The Mountain Will Fall assures its listeners the only steady thing it has is infectious hooks and taut instrumentation. Few artists could create an album with so much stylistic diversity, but DJ Shadow makes it look easy–layering aesthetics together without losing a single thread. The result is an album that pushes further, goes for more, and sounds bigger than any thing the producer has made hitherto.

DJ Shadow’s penchant for blending styles in The Mountain Will Fall reach their peak in “Pitter Patter.” The track lands in the back third of the album and weaves together elements of acid house, ethereal electronica, hip hop, dubstep, and soul to create a song that is truly genre-less. In the hands of a lesser skilled artist, the hybrid nature of this song and the album in general, would quickly turn to mush, but DJ Shadow knows exactly how to manipulate songs, to bend them to fit whatever he wants to do.

It’s always a gamble when an established artist goes silent for half a decade. Will their new material be as good as their old? Will it fall flat? That said, DJ Shadow shows no signs of slowing his creativity. With songs as taut and complex as anything he’s already put out, The Mountain Will Fall creates a cohesive unit that outstrips DJ Shadow’s previous releases. Though this is a bold statement, I believe that this album as a whole is the best the DJ has put out. DJ Shadow has moved beyond albums comprised of singles to an album that (while it does have sparkling singles) is greater than the sum of its parts.

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