Defying categorisation since the release of their Maybes and Sketch on Glass EP’s in 2009, Mount Kimbie began as a project synonymous with ‘post-dubstep’, taking the stylistic elements of that genre and making music that challenged our understanding of it. With the release of their sophomore record Cold Spring Fault Less Youth in 2013 however, Dominic Maker and Kai Campos began to sound a little lost, unsure of where to take their demonstrable production talent. I was actually very disappointed with that record; it felt muddled and confused, straddling the line between the earlier sound of Crooks and Lovers and an altogether new direction. In 2017, as if imbued with a greater sense of freedom, Maker and Campos continue further down the road of discovery to find their sound, but this time it feels more assured. In a sense, they delimit and constrain their own music through a careful assembly of generic markers, establishing a new period of Mount Kimbie as a project.
Most surprisingly, the dominant force of Love What Survives is the band’s use of the driving motorik beat, famously named after krautrock drummers such as Can’s Jacki Liebezeit and Neu!’s Klaus Dinger; this repetitive, propulsive drum beat can be both powerful and hypnotic in equal measure. Whilst the motorik doesn’t appear in every track, in a recent interview the band suggested that the record was originally planned to be exactly that, acting as a kind of sonic theme throughout. In some ways I wish we could hear that version of the record, because when the band lock into those beats on tracks like SP12 Beat and Delta, the record dazzles.
There are undoubtably things to appreciate about Love What Survives – Blue Train Lines featuring Archie Marshall (aka King Krule) truly finds itself as that motorik beat arrives, acting as the track’s fixative over the lofty synth textures and Marshall’s charismatic delivery. Audition is an instrumental track wonderfully constructed by Maker and Campos, its chorus-pedalled bass line and robotic ride cymbal hits reminiscent of fellow British band Metronomy’s The English Riviera. In other places on the record, the sense of atmosphere is not quite as well achieved; You Look Certain (I’m Not So Sure) featuring Andrea Balency is a relatively forgettable cut alongside the earlier tracks of the record, as is penultimate track T.A.M.E.D.A return to SP12 Beat illustrates the biggest downfall of the record – a lack of confidence in ideas. Maker and Campos spend much of Love What Survives developing these hazy passages that drift between consolatory to icy, flitting from idea to idea. For the most part these ideas really work, and on occasion even stun – SP12 Beat’s tuned percussion giving way to reverb post-punk and motorik is one of the best things I’ve heard this month. However, unlike the inspired motorik pioneers such as Can and Neu!, Mount Kimbie appear to lack the confidence to truly ride an idea. Motorik works best when repetition is really utilised – I want to hear 7 minute versions of these tracks where the band simmer on that beat, that singular idea, building these atmospheres and allowing the music to swirl around you and seep into your subconscious.
A prime example of this failure is the James Blake-featured We Go Home Together, a track that begins with a gorgeous organ melody and vocal line from Blake. Only a minute in however, this gives way to a new section, one that feels anticlimactic and almost completely forgettable in comparison with the opener. I get the sense Kimbie are eager to keep the wheels turning on this record, demonstrating their ideas as a way of proving their ability as songwriters and producers. The irony is that they prove this in spades with some sections, then consequently stifle those sections by not allowing them to breathe.
Sometimes, a musical expression is so successful it should be celebrated and given the opportunity to shine. I think with that approach Love What Survives would be a more successful piece of work. But as it is, Mount Kimbie have offered up an enjoyable effort that has shining moments.