This article was first published by The Edge on 8th August 2017
Ever since emerging in the Noughties Dubstep crowd, Mount Kimbie have challenged genre. Their interpretation of that scene practically deconstructed itself, employing elements of R&B and electronic, collated with the mystery from their warping of field recordings. Meticulously arranged production characterises the effortless feel of their tracks. Yet their third album Love What Survives demonstrates a greater relaxation than ever, along with more of Dominic Maker and Kai Campos’ boundless experimentation; Mount Kimbie now includes imperfections.
You hear patches of it littered throughout. ‘Marilyn’s percussive synths could be mixed from steel drums, or crafted from wrapping wooden spoons in towels and banging them on saucepans. Its bassline is a shifty treasure that often retreats from the overlapping percussion, while Micachu’s indolent vocals play with a completely different complexity; she murmurs “I’m looking up at you, yeah/Are you looking up at me, yeah?” emphasising detachment, compelling a surrender to the music. An attitude maximised by ‘SP12 Beat’, apparently put together by pushing xylophones down a cliff. The melodies trip over each other in a rush of expression, making kaleidoscopic surprises. However, when Maker and Campos’ persuasive bass riff unites this twinkling chaos into a singular groove, it proves that their chaos isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.
James Blake’s voice cracking is a similar feature on ‘We Go Home Together’, supplying more yearning than perhaps the song needs. He croons of companionship with “And it’s the best it could’ve been/We go home together/To our innermost/We go home together/And then we leave”. This track, a shot at gospel, is more reserved than the cannon-like church organ it begins with; its bearing is more akin to an interlude than a single, a pair to ‘Poison’s truncated, toybox piano. Yet ‘Delta’ is a restless bother of repetition: insistent synths, siren like wails that snake through the closing minute, and a “Pop!” made from pulling fingers from cheeks.
The closing of ‘Audition’ sees a plucky guitar drop away as if it fell off a treadmill mid-stride. A bold end to an obsessively assembled tune – the bass line is manipulated to such a degree that it resembles a church bell’s peal, and the song slinks along with alternately soothing and fidgety synths. Here, Mount Kimbie show, if there was any doubt, that their music will only sound as massive as your speakers give them room to be. Ambience if you like, fearsome if you let them: this is a rarer trick than you suppose.
The lack of easy definitions from song-to-song makes Love What Survives the duo’s most rewarding album. This album draws as much inspiration from jazz, psychedelia, and post-rock as electronica, hip-hop, and R&B. Even comparisons to other recent experimentals fall short. The structural similarity between ‘Four Years And One Day’ and Anna Meredith’s equally hallucinatory ‘Nautilus’ only belies their distinctive moods. Her horns prioritise unease, while their number establishing synths are soothing, mixing atmosphere and melody at once before implacable drums and bass take the reins.
The King Krule featuring ‘Blue Train Lines’ is all about that bass (in his voice), and the hi-hat led drums. Archy Marshall’s signature drawl is foreboding, mean and angry on Cold Spring Fault Less Youth. Not here. There’s an angst of the heart-wrenching, broken sort – Marshall practically yelps at the close of the verse and chorus. A muffled pain emanates from the distorted synths that deftly shuffle between the notes, and that almost anti-melodic voice, intoning “I just been eating away when I found her/All drowned in grey/I might have drowned her/I caught her plate number/And yeah, I might have seen it all”. Parallels are drawn of drug, blood, and metro lines, yet these depressive subjects unite in a song that pulsates fervently from start to finish.
Tenacity defines this record overall. Whilst each song has its own flavour and genre, the textures always remain the same. These are risk-taking songs, arranged meticulously to appear chaotic, yet almost always paring down to find solid ground to dance on, literally. Kai and Maker may have made their names with deconstructions, yet their tastes have strained to expand. Love What Survives doesn’t just give them the chance to showcase that, through relaxation, it sees them snatch it eagerly and prove their worth with every minute.
Love What Survives is out now via Warp Records