“What’s inherently significant about the new record are all of the new influences I’ve taken in. I wanted to have more on offer than just being ‘the sample guy.’ So says Josh Davis, aka DJ Shadow, of his fifth studio album, The Mountain Will Fall.
The restlessness and adventure that has defined Shadow’s career thus far is in evidence again on this album. While the presence of Mass Appeal label-mates Run The Jewels may comfort some, it’s the addition of UK jazzer Matthew Halsall and Berlin-based keyboard genius Nils Frahm that suggests a departure, without ever forsaking a hip-hop aesthetic.
Eschewing old studio aids like the MPC and Pro Tools, Davis was energized by new working methods. “I made most of it on Ableton Live,” he says. “To me, it’s a new instrument and a new way of making music. There are three or four songs which really don’t have any samples to speak of, and that in itself is somewhat of a departure.”
Of course, the reason why DJ Shadow was indeed ‘the sample guy’ was forged in a lengthy career that began at the lauded debut album Endtroducing….. (later this year he will celebrate its 20th anniversary), helped revive the careers of luminaries like David Axelrod as well as numerous killer compilations that helped redefine the digger’s art.
He is the DJ’s DJ. Spotted releasing early productions on his own Solesides, Shadow was signed to the influential Mo’ Wax in the UK by James Lavelle. The pair collaborated on U.N.K.L.E., working with Thom Yorke and the Beastie’s Mike D on a debut LP, Psyence Fiction, that sold over 1m. copies (the Mo’ Wax duo feature in a forthcoming documentary Artist & Repertoire). Over the next decade, DJ Shadow released another three albums, including the acclaimed The Private Press, 2011’s The Less You Know, The Better and the adventurous The Outsider, which included the hit-that-never-was, This Time, featuring the string arrangements of Wil Malone.