In the early ’90s a genre was born out of people’s desire to listen to strange electronic music without having to hop into a car and drive off to a field in the middle of nowhere. Experimenters like Plaid and Autechre created music that was influenced by the anarchistic spirit of rave but brought it into a more domestic context. Today’s equivalent to these early innovators are Mount Kimbie, a duo who are trying to channel dubstep’s potential out of dark dance floors andinto your headphones.
On their debut LP Crooks and Lovers you will hear songs that remind you of Four Tet, Joy Orbison, Burial and Floating Points, but even though comparisons to other artists are inescapable, their music is truly unlike anything being created by their peers. Their ideas go beyond dance music as they knit together a collage of sounds that encourage and reward careful listening. The presence of guitars and pianos gives the album an organic feel that’s usually absent from other dubstep and dance records. Mount Kimbie continually blur the line between the synthetic and ‘real’ instruments on tracks like ‘Adriatic’ which sounds like an improv jam with an acoustic guitar and a sampler.
Like most producers worth their salt Mount Kimbie seem to be ignoring the standard dubstep blueprint and exploring a wide range of tempos and frequencies. Gone is the 140BPM, the overemphasis on bass and here are even some moments here that could be considered ambient.
Mount Kimbie are pursuing a vein of dubstep that abandons the colourful flair and hyperactive pace of recent innovators Ikonika and Brackles and are instead playing with different ideas. Take ‘Before I Move Off’ with its funky guitar riffs and laid back attitude that sounds like it owes more to hip-hop beat makers like Flying Lotus than any dubstep producers. What they have learnt from the UK bass explosion of the past few years is how to infuse tracks with depth as they demonstrate on ‘Blind Night Errand’, the albums most recognisably dubstep track.
For the most part Crooks and Lovers is not dance floor music but music to lose yourself in while wandering aimlessly around town. But that’s not to say it’s dull in any way- there’s plenty of fun to be had with the funky garage of ‘Carbonated’ and the wonky ‘Mayor’. The most surprising thing about this album is that they have created electronic music that’s suitable home listening without resorting to glitchy chopped beats and the typical IDM trickery that has become stale.
It is clear from tracks like ‘Field’, with its guitars sitting comfortably beside the beats and bleeps, that they have an appreciation for contemporary indie music as well as electronic music. The result sounds like a perfect marriage of The xx and Joy Orbison. On ‘Ode to Bear’ the duo evoke The Album Leaf and Massive Attack with a melodic organ and bright chords that rises up gently until the song falls into a dark groove.
The tracks here express a wide range of moods and explore many musical avenues but unfortunately it doesn’t cover enough ground to feel like a complete album. It comes across more like a statement than a story and at 35 minutes the album is rather short.
There is no filler but it would benefit from another few longer tracks. That said, the pair are building on from their previous EPs Maybes and Sketch on Glass and are developing an interesting style that’s truly their own. Crooks and Lovers is an impressive debut and an unmissable record for fans of forward thinking electronic music but it isn’t the masterpiece Mount Kimbie are destined to make.