From the Top

Right, let’s try and get through this without mentioning James Blake.

Dominic Maker and Kai Campos just couldn’t have had a better start. Hotflush Recordings boss Scuba recognized Mount Kimbie‘s potential and debuted their first two, truly inspiring singles:  “Maybes” and “Sketch on Glass” – a deep, seductive and emotional trip into the belly of electronica, soundscapes and bass. A beautifully presented breath of fresh air to the saturated British bass music market of 2009.

Hotflush continued to release Mount Kimbie’s singles, except for their remix of The xx’s “Basic Space” on Young Turks and a remix of LV & Untold’s “Beacon” on Hemlock Recordings which, not surprisingly, was also home to James Blake’s early releases. (So much for that.)

Crooks & Lovers, Mount Kimbie’s first full-length release, saw them make it on over 30 “Best of 2010” lists including NME, Mixmag, Pitchfork and Resident Advisor, which, along with The Guardian’s seal of approval, rocketed them to bedroom-producer stardom and, thus, the proverbial phasers were set to stun.

I can only wonder if their almost two-year hiatus from physical releases was due to their signing to Warp. More beer money, a bigger studio, better marketing and distribution… Let’s see what Warp’s money can buy.

Cold Spring Fault Less Youth reads like a new chapter for Mount Kimbie and sees them move away from their earlier Blake-esque styles.

“Home Recording” opens with a synthetic trumpet key, suggesting a sinister something, layered with typical Mount Kimbie keys and accompanying bass. The typewriter percussion creates the rhythm, before a comforting  4/4 bass drum and a badly processed snare take you into oddly expected pop/house terrain, seemingly (and purposely) omitting the deep compression that coloured their sound from their Hotflush era. Their homegrown vocal melody, while nice, lacks strength and seals this as five minutes of mildly forgettable pop.

King Krule takes the mike for “You Took Your Time”. I’ve checked this one a few times now; I wasn’t feeling it upon first listen, nor second, but the third might just have won me over. Beans-styled lyrics and cheap drum machines keep it simple. I like simple, it’s just hard to pull off well. Live instruments don’t often sit  in a soup of electronics, but Mount Kimbie manage to successfully design out the flaws and leave us with what is one of the more interesting tracks on the album.

The “Break Well” intro is a synth soundscape progressing logically into more of the same sort of stuff, only with a beat… Next…

“Blood and Form” could have benefited with that compression they so purposely removed. Very very James Blake with nods to the mid-naughties mid-range bass that flooded the scene upon their rise. Again, nice but weak. The vocals let this song down. I’m starting to feel they concentrated too heavily on live performance and forgot that music just doesn’t like to be recorded.

Is is a bird? A plane? Plastikman’s “Spastik”? No, it’s “Made To Stray”. Looping synths are de-tuned and re-tuned to create the backbone for more synths before another weak Top 40 vocal melody and harmony bore me to death.

On  “So Many Times, So Many Ways” – finally – a strong bass-line cuts through the air with warm rim shots afoot. Guitar loops and licks almost touch The Cure’s earlier work, minus the vocals. Thanks, boys.

The intro to “Lie Near” could almost have been mistaken for jungle before that bass drum hits with warm confidence. Swishhh, swwwaaayy and a few other synth fills allow for  bigger, bolder, more cinematic swishy stuff. Say no more.

King Krule is back for more debauchery on “Meter, Pale, Tone”, which embraces his nasal style. He’s accompanied by nice bass playing and suave sound. This song possibly saves this album from the abyss of the thrift store bargain bin.

Lo-fi and with an oddball vocal sample, ’80s synth niceness, and surrounded by post-punk drums, “Slow” retches out reverb with complementing yet unexpected bass notes, and continues in the same vein until the song ends.

I realize I’ve been more than a little harsh with this album, but, considering the dizzying heights of their small but perfectly formed back catalogue, and their signing to the mighty Warp, I expected utter greatness.

Will it sell well? Probably. A hit? Probably not.