DJ Shadow: “The Mountain Has Fallen” EP Review

Written By: Ethan Griggs

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When DJ Shadow released his fifth album The Mountain Will Fall in June of 2016, many critics praised it as his best work since 2002’s Private Press. Many music pundits believed that the instrumental hip-hop godfather had gotten too distracted with his sound on 2006’s The Outsider and 2011’s The Less You Know, The Better, but the electronic textures he brought to The Mountain… are concise and focused like his earliest work. Now, Shadow has released the outtakes from the sessions that comprised his last record and released them under the appropriate title The Mountain Has Fallen. 

Two of the four tracks on the EP feature a rapper, and DJ Shadow is on a level where folks like Nas and Danny Brown won’t be mad about making the b-sides. Why worry about it at all when you have flows like Nas? He opens the record with “Systematic”, a political call to arms that features Shadow’s signature production. “The system’s fucked, it’s corrupt/It’s poison, survival is genocidal/No place of origin, no beginning cycle/Let’s occupy all streets” is what he pleads on the track. Danny Brown is, of course, as fucking nuts as ever as his verses on the pounding, four-on-the-floor “Horror Show”. “I’m Einstein off two lines and moonshine/Too lit, hit two bitches at noon time/Spiritless like prostitutes that steal shit/Limitless like when them chemicals mix” is absolutely one of the best lines he’s put out on any feature this year.

The second half of the album is all instrumental. On “Good News” DJ Shadow presents the percussion and glitch heavy experiments that made the songs on The Mountain Will Fall so enjoyable. There’s still one more feature left, though; British film score composer Stephen Price accents the final cut “Corridors” with a larger than life string arrangement while Shadow’s Tourette’s-like electronics ping-pong around. The texture of the sound brings to mind the newest Com Truise record as well as something that comes from the Hyperdub label. Eventually, the drama becomes so intense that it throws the whole thing overboard, and the song comes crashing down like the sound of a broken needle on a vinyl record.

Quality albums almost always have quality takes that were left on the cutting room floor, and an artist of DJ Shadow’s caliber is no exception. Although he may never release a stone cold classic like his famous debut Endtroducing…, he surely has more than enough tricks up his sleeve to keep his listeners entertained. The king of sampling shows no signs of dropping off the map anytime soon.