South Londoners' second album features King Krule and strange emotions, but never loses sight of the dancefloor
Mount Kimbie were one of the most intriguing of British electronic music’s class of 2010, bursting out of the same basement party all-nighters as James Blake, Gold Panda and SBTRKT when south London’s turn-of-the-decade post-dubstep explosion went nuclear. The Peckham duo may not have gained the Stateside success, Mercury Prize nods and high-profile hip-hop collaborations some of their peers received (Blake and SBTRKT’s Aaron Jerome now rub shoulders with Kanye West and OutKast’s Big Boi respectively), but it wasn’t for want of trying: their 2010 debut ‘Crooks & Lovers’ was a delicately detailed club thumper, its twitchy motorik beats, soulful snatches of vocals and interloping zither sounds at once a loving homage to UK bass culture and an exciting lurch away from its ketamine-blazed clichés.
Returning three years later with ‘Cold Spring Fault Less Youth’, you get the impression Dominic Maker and Kai Campos don’t want to be overlooked again. It’s an album that claws for attention, the careful nuances, shuffling rhythms and strange emotions of their first outing fine-tuned into something unmissable.
From the moment it creaks into life, ‘Cold Spring…’ finds Kimbie in a more melodic, melancholic mood, glazing their sound with vocals honey-dripped in reverb and longing. Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise – there’s always been a hint of fellow south Londoners The xx to their sound, and their band name is cobbled together from references to cult singer-songwriters Nick Drake and Phil Elverum. But unlike clubland deserter James Blake, whose recent full-length ‘Overgrown’ is more Antony & The Johnsons than Aphex Twin, Kimbie’s melodic experiments never lose sight of the dancefloor. ‘Made To Stray’ simmers for five minutes until the keyboards boil over into ’90s garage clicks and vocal chants (“shadows turn to grey, say it today“), while ‘Sullen Ground’ is a stormy, spooky, broody stomper. ‘Break Well’ could be a Beach House song, with its bright, breezy guitar lines and smooth, snaking bassline.
“Did you see me? I killed a man“, mopes King Krule on the excellent ‘You Took Your Time’ – one of his two cameos on the album – with the desperate drawl of a bank robber in a heist turned bloody: “They all stayed down, but he chose to stand“. Kimbie sound just as ruthless in their pursuit of greatness on this second offering.
It doesn’t all come off – the interlude ‘So Many Times, So Many Ways’, a band jam, feels loose and disconnected from the rest of the record, and closing track ‘Fall Out’ sees the album whimper out in a spiral of arpeggiated keyboard loops. ‘Cold Spring Fault Less Youth’ is not entirely faultless, then – but it comes close.