Wednesday, July 12, 2017

D.J. Shadow - The Mountain Has Fallen Review

Despite tumultuous hard times, now taking up the majority of his career, DJ Shadow's talents have never been called into question. Entroducing..... was just that good. While The Private Press was good enough to satisfy the lust without achieving the impossible, Shadow's work post-millennium has been scarred with ill-fitted concepts and a tendency to fall behind the curb he once built. Last year, The Mountain Will Fall rectified some of those past disappointments, resulting in his best album since 2002, although that's not saying much. Still lost amongst a sea of ideas, confused about its own existence, The Mountain Will Fall plodded forward because the man behind the machine knew how to operate effectively. From orchestral manifestations to chopped n' screwed exposés, Hip-Hop bangers to atmospheric broadcasts, Shadow's 2016 effort was scattered but intriguing. This time around, four tracks join the party. The Mountain Has Fallen is a quick EP of outtakes. As to be expected, nothing new emerges, as the genre-bending conundrum constantly churning in Shadow's brain finds a new home. Quite literally, one minute of 90's stroking Boom Bap turns to rabid Experimental Hip-Hop. That, right before glitch-infused Wonky turns to orchestral Trap. The chaos is maddening, and by the end, that's no longer a compliment.

The Mountain Has Fallen begins with a track some might already be familiar with. 'Systematic,' which promptly features Nas embodying Nas, first gained attention through Silicon Valley's noteworthy soundtrack. Its success can be garnered purely by means of its simplicity. Shadow knows how to make Boom Bap; he always has. But, as if evident on every project of his, his interests lie in pushing the boundaries. For those who chomp on rigid, street-durable Conscious Hip-Hop, 'Systematic' will quell that thirst. Nothing Shadow or Nas creates here is jarring, unusual, or remotely out of place. For fans of both, 'Systematic' is safe political pandering. And with what we're soon to experience on The Mountain Has Fallen, that's not so much a bad thing. That's because any old-heads who linger for too long will find themselves amongst the lunacy of 'Horror Show,' or, in other words, Danny Brown's playground. Here, he and Shadow unleash maniacal fury akin to The Joker, pulling tricks and gaffs to perplex listeners from afar. Thing is, while Brown's rapping pulls back the strings to the XXX era, 'Horror Show,' much like 'Systematic,' is entirely pandering as well. Shadow can't escape falling into cliches.

The least incompatible track change occurs between 'Horror Show' and 'Good News,' as both feature sporadic drum usage, comic book villain synths, and an experimental edge. Unfortunately, this is also where The Mountain Has Fallen teeters off from standard procedure that's basic, but not all that disappointing, to unexciting fodder that fails to cause a stir. 'Good News' feels like little more than a drum kit test, punching buttons seemingly at random, like a disjointed Wonky cut that efforts no heart. Taken out of context, I see no reason for DJ Shadow to release this. And while 'Corridors' fairs a tad better, the lengthy clash of organic and mechanical retraces the implanted steps of 'Three Ralphs,' 'Ashes To Oceans,' and 'Ghost Town' off The Mountain Will Fall. 'Corridors,' thanks to Steven Price who's featured here, forces a more theatrical approach not unlike a video game soundtrack for a medieval boss fight. A prime example of a Shadow idea going awry, 'Corridors' abruptly cuts out at its climactic peak with ugly technical corruption, leaving some stray strings in the recluse. This mishandled decision represents The Mountain Has Fallen nicely; exploratory and diverse, but not all that enjoyable or exhilarating.

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