Tom Bell gives Mount Kimbie’s new album 3 stars
Mount Kimbie’s 2010 début album Crooks & Lovers consisted of delicate miniatures which blended organic samples with digital wizardry. There was something delightfully homely about it: the sound of a drink fizzing on ‘Carbonated,’ the kitchen utensil percussion, the bedroom aesthetic. It made a merit of sounding like a first attempt, and was one of the best records of the year.
Following two years of solid touring, the duo have moved from tiny London-based label Hotflush Recordings to electronic behemoth Warp, home of Aphex Twin, Battles, Flying Lotus et al. The two pre-album singles pulled in different directions: the disappointingly momentum-less ‘Blood and Form’ pairs minimal acoustic percussion with dusty synth lines, while ‘Made to Stray’ is one of the tracks of the year so far. Confident, thrumming percussion makes a cavern of the space between your headphones while a truly unhinged lead builds to an assured climax, in something closer to a dance number than anything the pair have offered yet. Most notably, both feature prominent vocal lines, dispensing with the shyly chopped-up lyrical work on previous output.
As might be expected, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is considerably brasher than its predecessor. Instrumental tracks are now remarkable, and guitars and organic drums proliferate in similarly sparse arrangements as on the album’s predecessor. A period of live performance has evidently had an influence on the record, but they still don’t feel anything like a band, bolstering the sound with an array of digital trickery.
The album’s opener, ‘Home Recording,’ brings a fresh jazzy feel to proceedings that runs through tracks like ‘So Many Times, So Many Ways’, but it also exposes a persistent, if slight, flaw. Despite sitting in the background of the track the vocal is the focus of the mix, and it’s perfectly competent; it just isn’t exciting. We’ve come to expect flawless, energetic vocal performances in electronic music, and that someone of friend and collaborator James Blake’s calibre would inject some energy into these tracks.
This is ameliorated somewhat by a couple of guest slots from the 18-year-old Billy Bragg of the Brit School, King Krule. Though his vocal delivery is often a little too boisterous, when paired with a minimal backdrop of sighing synths the two parts set each other off perfectly. ‘You Took Your Time’ is a real treat, with Krule’s drawl caressing a spiky beat into a frenzy of harmonium and rolling toms. As elsewhere, Maker and Campos apply reverb like a colour, lending a fitting expansiveness to the climax.