Mount Kimbie have been described as a ‘post-dubstep’ outfit, a term which – despite sounding like the worst kind of music journalese – is actually a pretty accurate description of their music. On their 2010 debut album Crooks And Lovers, Dominic Maker and Kai Campos (the two men who make up Mount Kimbie) took the musical signatures of dubstep – the deep bass wobbles, big synthesizer sweeps and syncopated drum patterns – and turned them inside out. The results made for an album that was subtle and demanded careful attention. An album that wasn’t suited to the dancefloor at all, then.
For this follow-up, Maker and Campos have hinted at wholesale changes to their way of working. “Two years is a long time. Tastes change, what you want out of your life changes, and so on. Naturally, how we want to sound has changed too”. In truth, though, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is less a reinvention of their sound, more an adjustment. There’s an increased use of live (or, at least, live-sounding) instrumentation: the first sounds we hear are an organ and a saxophone, while other tracks feature guitar, live bass and even a smidgen of accordion. It all adds up to an album that’s a little warmer in tone than its predecessor.
The big change, however, is the appearance of vocals. Crooks And Lovers relied on vocal snippets – typically pitchshifted, skewed and generally fiddled around with – for its melodic hooks. On CSFLY there is actual, proper singing. Up-and-coming young musician King Krule appears on You Took Your Time and Meter, Pale, Tone, while Made To Stray features some perfectly serviceable vocals from Maker and Campos themselves.
While Mount Kimbie might be employing more traditional instrumentation, this doesn’t actually manifest itself in any added accessibility. If anything, CSFLY is a more difficult listen than its predecessor. Occasionally, the tracks sound like the product of overthinking on the part of Maker and Campos. The momentum of numbers such as opener Home Recording and Lie Near is checked by spacey interludes. Elsewhere, their editing instincts go awry: You Took Your Time begins promisingly but overstays its welcome by about two minutes; by the end, King Krule’s hectoring vocals resemble those of a pub bore the listener can’t wait to shake off.
CSFLY is at its best when Maker and Campos allow their songs to unfurl in a more intuitive manner. Break Well begins with two-and-a-half minutes of ambient noise; then, just when it sounds like it’s evaporating into the ether, a propulsive bassline kicks in which runs for a whole minute before the track ends suddenly and tantalisingly. Made To Stray, meanwhile, is CSFLY’s fastest and best track. It’s a masterclass in tension and release: the first three minutes consist of a skittering, vaguely military-sounding drumbeat before a deep bass thud kicks in, followed swiftly by a melodic vocal line.
Sullen Ground and Slow are the two tracks that most closely resemble the sound of Crooks And Lovers. The former is a minimalist, nocturnal-sounding track that evokes the feeling one gets from walking around the streets of London alone in the dead of night: simultaneously exciting and unnerving. The latter track displays a much lighter touch, laying a deliberately cheesy organ refrain over ravey synth blasts. It’s a rare moment of levity that the rest of the album could do with more of.
Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is an album that’s as purposefully awkward as its title: cleverly put together, but occasionally just not very much fun.