Mount Kimbie are often considered defining artists in the at times confused and miasmic genre of post-dubstep. Some might say they are on the side of future garage. Most would file them under ‘electronic’ and ‘experimental’. In my humble opinion, a duo as technically intrepid as London-based Kai Campos and Dom Maker are aural explorers. For them, genre boundaries are permeable. This is evident on “Cold Spring Fault Less Youth”, their second album. “Crooks & Lovers”, their 2010 debut, garnered a considerable amount of critical acclaim for its innovative sound and precise yet easygoing experimentation. Since the release of “Made To Stray” back in March, fans and critics alike have been looking forward to seeing where Mount Kimbie will take their sound next.
They certainly sound like an act in control of their own output. The fanfare at the beginning of “Home Recording”, the album’s first track, clearly indicates that this is more than a collection of tunes created between now and 2010. It’s a well thought out exhibition of sound and their own musical development, structured in a specific way to take us on a delicate and beautiful journey. To get the most out of the album, I would recommend that you grab your headphones – or at least a quiet room – and listen to it in full. Broadly speaking one could separate the album into three categories: chilled out vocal tracks, party tracks and hard experimental tracks. “Home Recording” is a perfect example of the primary category, and acts as a showcase of the new ideas at play in the rest of the album. Fans of Mount Kimbie might be more familiar with the lovely laidback, textural electronica of previous releases, but this album takes a decidedly more engaging approach.
Mount Kimbie make an excellent alliance with emerging London artist King Krule for the second and eighth tracks of the album “You Took Your Time” and “Meter, Pale, Tone” respectively. There’s always been something elegantly washed out, yet emotionally charged about Mount Kimbie’s music and King Krule, for me at least, represents a new kind of grey sky grime, perfectly reflective of the resigned chaos of many a young person in the overcast isles. They complement each other perfectly, and both tracks are a delight.
Things get a bit more upbeat with “Break Well” and “Blood and Form”. Here we get to a harder more playful sound epitomised by “Made To Stray”, the thrumming lead single from the album. Mount Kimbie’s use of texture and tonality seems a little more grown up in these three party tracks. “Break Well” is at first reminiscent of more experimental acts such as Boards of Canada or Aphex Twin, but then breaks into a sequence which wouldn’t be out of place in a plaid-clad indie band. Not that there’s anything wrong with that- this track is a surprising and promising example of Mount Kimbie playing around with all of the sounds coming out of both mainstream and alternative charts right now. They continue this feel into “Blood and Form”, which again features vocals from Mount Kimbie alongside more classic elements of their sound, notably specific synth sequences and decreasing and increasing layers of sound. “So Many Times, So Many Ways” neatly ends the party tune section of the album, and the hard experimental tracks kick in with “Lie Near”.
“Slow” is the standout tune of this section. Think “Blind Night Errand” from “Crooks & Lovers” but even better, more mature, a little darker and more varied. Mount Kimbie have perfected the blend of hard rhythms and dark sounds with cheerier melodies. The intro to “Sullen Ground” is intense and intriguing; the track itself reminiscent of Burial or Blawan. However, I’m not sure I really wanted to hear more vocals over it. “Sullen Ground” is the best example on the album of how Mount Kimbie could develop the integration of vocal lines and their signature sound a little better. Even a cursory listen would show that they are tantalisingly close to achieving this.
Dream-like yet urban, “Fall Out” rounds off our time with Mount Kimbie perfectly. Overall “Cold Spring Fault Less Youth” is a solid second album. Mount Kimbie deliver exactly what we expected from them; music which is precisely arranged and meticulously thought out, with a heavy dose of charm and emotion. However, I’d be hesitant to saturate them with praise. Not all of their experiments have been successful. It’s hard to measure up “Cold Spring Fault Less Youth” against “Crooks & Lovers”. Faced with the challenge of where to go after essentially defining a sound, Mount Kimbie have triumphed- but one cannot help but feel that their journey continues. If this album has anything to say for it, it’s that it will be an enduring and enjoyable journey nonetheless.