Album Review: Mount Kimbie – Love What Survives

By Justin Cudahy, Columns Editor
[Warp; 2017]
Rating: 7.5/10

Key Tracks: “Blue Train Lines”, “Marilyn”, “T.A.M.E.D”

Back when dubstep was hitting its peak in the UK during the mid-2000s, Mount Kimbie’s Kai Campos and Dominic Maker were already developing their own style outside the genre. Instead of the typical loud, bass-heavy drops and fast-paced rhythms commonly associated with it, the duo instead shoots for a much hazier, slower syncopation with ties to gospel, R&B and electronica. Their sound is often coined as “post-dubstep”, but Campos disagrees, stating, “We like big bass sounds and synthesizers, but we don’t like Skrillex,” which for Mount Kimbie’s case, may just be a much more suitable genre.

Love What Survives is Mount Kimbie’s third full-length LP, although it certainly doesn’t feel that way. The album clocks in at 39 minutes which, although is short compared to most records, is actually standard for the group (their debut LP, Crooks and Lovers was 35 minutes). Given the short time that they have, Mount Kimbie has no problem getting things going with the opening track, “Four Years and One Day”. The three-minute instrumental is nothing but one slow and steady buildup, featuring an abundance of synth patches, wavy rhythms, and snare hits which all come crumbling down in the final seconds to the screams of dissonant static before transitioning to the next track.

The LP is split up in that it features full-length instrumentals coupled in with normal vocal tracks with collaborators that alternate throughout. It’s an interesting format that certainly works in setting up each collaboration track, such as the previously mentioned opener into “Blue Train Lines” and “Audition” into “Marilyn”. However, when the album’s sound starts straying away from the synth beats and moving toward a more gospel-like approach filled with piano and organ in the second half, the effect quickly wears off. The instrumental “Poison” is a two-minute loop of the same jumbled piano rhythm making it sound like an annoying ringtone rather than an actual track. It’s a poor transition that certainly takes away from “We Go Home Together”, the track that succeeds it.

The collaborations on Love What Survives are easily the highlight here, each with different backgrounds in their respective genre that help the LP feel diverse. English singer, rapper and producer King Krule makes his return, having appeared in Mount Kimbie’s last LP, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth back in 2013, bringing in his influences from the post-punk and darkwave scene into the track “Blue Train Lines”. This kind of genre blending works not just here, but among the other collaborators as well. English singer and composer, Micachu brings her experimental pop background into the light and airy ballad “Marilyn”, while dubstep, R&B and soul artist James Blake lends his vocals in the LP’s more gospel-like tracks including the album’s closing track, “How We Got By”. Mount Kimbie’s Dominic Maker even joins in on the chorus in “T.A.M.E.D”, which, although underwhelming, is still a mesmerizing track with an 8-bit sounding instrumental mixed with a creeping march cadence that gets more satisfying to listen to with every replay.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much closure with the LP, rather that’s because of the relatively short length of the project or it’s underwhelming closer, it will leave listeners expecting for something else to happen. Despite this, Love What Survives is certainly Mount Kimbie’s strongest album to date. Now that the duo has figured out and developed their sound fully, now is when they can capitalize on tightening it up for future records.

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