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It would be incredibly easy to waste the entire word count of this review trying to debate where exactly Mount Kimbie fit into the UK’s musical landscape. Depending on who you talk to the band are anything and everything from dubstep producers to a post-rock band via ambience and IDM.
But it’s not worth getting tied up in categories and definitions here. For one thing it would be fair to say that Mount Kimbie incorporate elements of all of the above. More importantly though, whoever you speak to about Mount Kimbie – be they indie kids or bass-heads – you’ll inevitably find that people are generally pretty excited about them. And rightly so; between their stunning EPs, Maybes and Sketch on Glass, both released on Hotflush last year, and a string of accomplished remixes, Mount Kimbie have given us a lot to be excited about.
Crooks & Lovers does nothing to break that winning streak. Broadly speaking the band’s debut fits into the great tradition of dance music that you can’t quite dance to. Dubstep is obviously one of the key reference points, and is ultimately the easiest genre to place Mount Kimbie in, but it would be a misconception to think that it’s the only influence at play here.
Overall the album is marginally more polished and accessible than the EPs, and also more accomplished. Here Mount Kimbie have fully utilised the luxury of breathing space that a full-length record allows. With the pressure of producing a ‘hit’ or squeezing every good idea into a single song removed, the band let their loops run a lot longer. Some of the tracks on Crooks & Lovers, such as opener ‘Tunnel Vision’ or ‘Adriatic’, are little more than simple samples or chord patterns which play out while percussive elements and different frequencies fade out and in over the top.
Yet at its best Crooks & Lovers almost sounds like it was written as a dance record then stripped back and remixed with restraint in mind. ‘Blind Night Errand’ has the feel of a dance-floor-friendly garage hit that’s had its wings clipped and its lead lines stripped away. Similarly, at the heart of ‘Before I Move Off’ is a funky guitar loop and the disjointed, processed remains of a joyous vocal line.
It’s this clipping and manipulating of live instrumentation and vocals that characterises Mount Kimbie’s sound more than anything. While they may be far from being the first to incorporate these kinds of elements, they certainly are incredibly good at doing so. Vocal samples appear throughout the album, but at no point are any lyrics discernable – instead lines are chopped to bring out their full emotive potential, like on the heart-string tugging second half of ‘Carbonated’.
Like a well constructed DJ set Crooks & Lovers is a slow builder that saves its biggest moments for the home stretch. The run of tracks that make up the record’s second half also make up the album’s highlights. ‘Ruby’ is its most straight-up bit of ambient dubstep, reminiscent of Burial or Hotflush head-honcho Scuba, while ‘Ode To Bear’ is a wonderfully emotive, down-tempo number based around a mellow organ chord pattern.
‘Field’ is a change of tone compared to the rest of the album, comprised of a repetitive, almost industrial build up that breaks into a near out-and-out rock guitar part. ‘Mayor’, on the other hand, is the danceable, funky tune that Mount Kimbie have been threatening to break out for the previous 30 minutes, turning a plucked guitar sample into the record’s most upbeat moment. The quick one-two these tracks provides Mount Kimbie’s most accessible material to date and acts as the perfect release to the more ambient moods set across the rest of the album.
As a whole Crooks & Lovers is a fantastically constructed album; the repetition and ambience makes for a hypnotic listen, yet Mount Kimbie know exactly when to break this mesmerising flow with heartfelt vocal samples and perfectly delivered instrument lines. It’s rare to find a level of craftsmanship like this on a debut; Mount Kimbie have delivered a strong statement of intent and a record that is certainly a contender for album of the year.
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