Dominic Maker and Kai Campos, the duo that makes up Mount Kimbie, have matured greatly since 2010′s debut full-length, Crooks And Lovers, gaining not only wisdom but a tactfulness that only comes from being in complete control of your sound. The group’s sophomore album, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, takes chances, displaying a willingness to experiment and tinker with the pair’s core sound. And it does so with a sense of confidence. Surprisingly enough, that precision came only after a period of uncertainty. “We were quite puzzled and maybe a bit concerned about where this album was going to go,” Dominic told CMJ in a recent interview. “And then it just suddenly kind of happened. So I guess the biggest challenge was trying to figure out what the hell we were going to do.”
Released through their new label Warp, the album is a splendid compilation of 11 tracks each with their own mind and their own message. This time around instead of relying on purely electronics and little sample snippets, the duo has opted to include some live instruments, outside artists and their own vocals. The album’s opening track, “Home Recording,” is an immediate sign that the band will be taking some chances. With a silky smooth organ in the background and the constant soft tapping of a drum, Campos croons gently, as if he’s simply whispering into the mic. It’s a serene track, but it’s also disquieting.
Where in the past the pair had a closed-off and insular quality, this time around they’ve worked with British artist King Krule on not one but two tracks. The first is a song called “You Took Your Time” and it finds Krule using his bellowing voice—a haunting blend of rapping and singing—to harmonize with Mount Kimbie’s lucid synths and languid beats. Krule’s drawl is featured again near the end of the album on “Meter, Pale, Tone.” “See me I don’t exist” he solemnly wails towards the beginning of the song. He neither takes control or sinks into the background of the song, instead becoming a seamless part of Mount Kimbie’s warped and beautiful universe.
Mount Kimbie’s music continues to defy simple genre descriptions. The group was often labeled as “post-dubstep” when they first arrived back in 2009, and though they continue to use many of the same tools—chilly synths, heavy bass, pitter-patter drum patterns—Cold Spring Fault Less Youth doesn’t feel particularly indebted to any one strand of electronic music. The lead single, “Made To Stray,” is the closest thing to a club track on the album, and even that’s a slight stretch. It opens with some very fast percussion and trumpets that weave in and out for a good two minutes before the tension becomes too much. When the beat finally drops, it’s not bombastic or overtly aggressive. Instead, Campos quietly chants, “Made to stray around rough coasts/When grace is close to home.”
Other songs are more about texture, mood and ambiance. The breathtaking “Break Well” starts off with a gloomy ring and that crackling sound of television static. It’s then followed by a flute-violin crossbreed that creates a vibe that’s both tranquil and euphoric. As the song builds, the instrument is joined by some mysterious vocals and after three minutes of peacefulness, the song takes a surprising turn. Suddenly it morphs into an upbeat, poppy number, filled with chiming guitars, pounding drums and a subtle bass part. Then it ends, cutting off right as it seems to be falling into a groove. That ability to surprise is what continues to make Mount Kimbie such a compelling and essential group. They’ve clearly set out to be innovators not duplicators, and Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is yet another one of their projects that crosses electronic music boundaries and produces something extraordinary.