Review Summary: An album filled with tension, verve, and ingenuity that heralds their return in brilliant style
Post-dubstep is a trite title, really. A genre that was supposedly pioneered by London duo Mount Kimbie, it’s a moniker that doesn’t do them any justice at all. Why? Because dubstep has always been, to put in clichéd terms, all style over substance. It is emotionally destitute, save physical interplay, born and bred in sweaty underground caverns where scenesters partake in a robotic dance ritual and stagger under that almighty drop. It knows no subtlety.
Mount Kimbie no doubt originated from that scene back in 2006, but bid their farewell a long time ago. Dubstep is revisited only in skewed fragments: 2010’s Crooks and Lovers contained no ‘drops’ ’wubs’ or frantic break beats, instead opting for rubbery squeaks and cluttered, light percussion that sounded like chopsticks scraping along a radiator.
The duo have essentially become isolated to their own output, and on their second album Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, they have cast themselves off into the wild. This is an album filled with tension, verve, and ingenuity that heralds their return in brilliant style.
Contrasts between Cold Spring and Crooks and Lovers couldn’t possibly be starker. “Home Recording,” the first track, opens and closes with a flourish of saxophones that are as startling as the classical Spanish guitar employed on the duo’s debut. A clicking beat is looped; the pattern quickly becomes unstable as effects are layered on top of it, and Kai Campos’ vocals kick into motion for the first time, proving himself as a competent crooner. From the offset, it is clear that the album revels in its kaleidoscopic sounds, “Home Recording” alone spanning church hymns, rustic post-rock, and urban soul.
The true highlight arrives on “You Took Your Time,” featuring eighteen year-old London native Archy Marshall, aka King Krule. It begins as low-key electronic hip-hop; Marshall’s lyrical slurring wavers between vulnerability and deadened bluntness: “I killed a man”/“Did it hit you deep to watch his mind seep across the pavement?”/“I was not born to be torn, I was born to be exposed in the storm and held warm.” Structural abnormalities and a twist of accordion transform the song into a bizarre fisherman-like ballad and then punk freak-out. Marshall ages dramatically, his broody, effects-manipulated voice channeling an angry Joe Strummer or Steve Ignorant of Crass fame. Mount Kimbie, good choice lads.
“Blood and Form” is possibly the closest the album gets to its predecessor, with its thumping beat, twinkling synths, and half sung/spoken vocals. The instrumental “So Many Times, So Many Ways” makes a transition from frosty Berlin synth interlude to krautrock bass groove without breaking a sweat, and “Slow” goes old-school techno - that is, in the most dank, subterranean manner evoked by the likes of Andy Stott. So often these songs threaten to stop as they appear to be on the verge of taking off, and yet provide no release. The sparse, gloomy kiss-off “Fall Out” utilises sampled piano arpeggios filtered through static. Mount Kimbie have always made found sound a dominant element in their sonic palette, but nowhere near as alien and enigmatic as this.
Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is as confident and assured as any great follow-up can be, showcasing a group that is not afraid to cross genre-borders and cast aside the meek post-dubstep moniker. With this album, that label is irrelevant. Time to move forward, it is saying. The fact that it refuses to be classified makes it all the more commendable.