Album Reviews

Mount Kimbie – MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning

(Warp) UK release date: 4 November 2022

The Peckham duo splits to make an album in two parts: one sample-heavy R&B, the other minimal house/techno

Mount Kimbie - MK 3.5: Die Cuts City Planning Whether it be Speakerboxx/The Love Below, The White Album or the less well-remembered SR3MM, when artistic partnerships break apart the results can be exciting, frustrating and revealing. Mount Kimbie have an illustrious past in the British electronic scene, and with MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning now evidently Dom Maker wants to make a sample-heavy rap/R&B record, while Kai Campos would prefer to explore minimal house/techno.

Die Cuts comes to life with In Your Eyes, a collaboration with Slowthai and Danny Brown that mixes reflections on life with hedonistic defiance (“man this world so cold, ask me how many fucks that I can give / so I roll a blunt so fat we call it body positive”) over a piano-laced trap beat. Kucka’s sweet delivery lifts F1 Racer, but elsewhere the vocal guests don’t work as well: James Blake’s vocal melodies seem out of kilter with the accompaniment of Somehow She’s Still Here, while Tender Hearts Meet The Sky aims for an Erykah Badu vibe but just sounds messy.

City Planning has no lyrics at all, based instead around ostinatos that are either discordant (Quartz, Transit Map (Flattened)) or arpeggaic and fluttering (Satellite 7, Zone 1 (24 Hours)). The bass pumps, the treble hisses in a lo-fi fashion and some of the minimal arrangements of Crooks & Lovers spring to mind. This half of the album is more consistent, and all that’s missing are fully mixed versions of the Satellite and Zones trilogies, which progress like lengthy songs but are occasionally broken up by awkward silences that disrupt the flow.

Heat On, Lips On is the most interesting point of the whole record, as a disorientating beat loops under a pitch-shifted spoken-word performance – perhaps inspired by Camille? – about the demise of intimacy in an age of online pornography. While Kai’s contribution has highlights of its own, particularly the surreal electro breakdown of Satellite 9, it’s also true that City Planning takes less stylistic risks and perhaps achieves less as a result.

Split releases like this allow fans to confront the question of who they prefer, and it certainly appears that Mount Kimbie’s previous album Love What Survives put Dom in the driving seat with its mid-tempo beats and more conventional song structures. This reviewer chooses Kai by the slimmest of margins, but what matters more is that MK 3.5: Die Cuts City Planning is diverse, lively and mostly encouraging.

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Mount Kimbie – MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning
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Mount Kimbie – Crooks And Lovers