Mount Kimbie are a duo from London comprised of Dominic Maker and Kai Campos. Their debut album, 2010’s Crooks & Lovers, brought them critical acclaim; it was also one of my favorite albums of the last few years. As a result, this eagerly anticipated follow-up, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, will inevitably be judged beside its accomplished older brother, with the specter of earlier success probably looming just as large for Dom and Kai when they created this as it does for me as I settle down to try and review it.
Mount Kimbie’s work has always been associated with the genre of dubstep, but I prefer to avoid this tag because of its connotations with the horrendous but ubiquitous bro-step that just can’t seem to be avoided. Mount Kimbie have little in common with all of that and are more closely related to the ambulant and atmospheric music of Boards of Canada and contemporaries such as James Blake. They create dense, textured songs where shivers, rattles, crackles, and fuzzes flicker like fireflies out of and back into the darkness at the back of your headphones.
The first track on Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, “Home Recording”, has the duo’s fingerprints all over it, consisting of hushed percussion and otherworldly samples. But then something less orthodox happens: vocals. Voices could be found in their previous songs, but always something warped and inhuman, never fully fledged vocals. At this point in the album, the human voice fits with the music, sneaking in there quietly. But by the second song, “You Took Your Time”, their collaboration with King Krule introduces a new and unexpected element to the proceedings, an overbearing spoken word with a hint of hip-hop-esque assertiveness. We can find this vocal infiltration throughout the album on songs like “Made to Stray”, our first taste of their new material which popped up a few months back.
On their new album, Mount Kimbie still offer the variety of interesting sounds from which they have always crafted their songs. This makes listening to their music a fresh experience, like eating a meal made from a variety of exotic fruit, from jungles you’ve never heard of, all meshed together into something warmly familiar yet strangely foreign. Maybe this is why the vocals, especially King Krule’s domineering baritone, feel out of place when they first appear; they snap you back to reality from the colorful hypnosis you have just been lulled into. Its like you’re exploring the terrain of a Martian jungle and suddenly the postman walks past and waves hello, breaking the spell that has been so delicately and intricately cast.
Mount Kimbie still represent to me what’s right with contemporary electronic music. They don’t seem too concerned with creating anything to dance to or that can be conveniently packaged as a member of a particular genre. There’s no waiting for the inevitable drop or any of the other predictable hallmarks of most electronic music. There’s nothing unimaginative, unoriginal, obsequious to current trends, or contrived about it. Mount Kimbie have retained what made them special and used it to create another really good album as they search for more elements to add to their winning formula.