Six years on from their debut EP, Carbonated, which lived up its name with bursts of fizzing, popping beats like dubstep through a soda fountain, Mount Kimbie release a third full album and enter a more complex phase; one that could even be described as mature. Love What Survives continues a progression from their original incarnation as two guys and a row of knobs to guest vocalists, instruments and layers of production. Fortunately, listening to Dominic Maker and Kai Campos grow up, musically at least, is a satisfying, even enthralling experience. They are in the enviable position of getting better with each album, and Love What Survives is probably their best yet.
The pair confidently mix ideas and styles from the opening track, ‘Four Years and One Day’, a melancholy instrumental with deep bass, chugging synths and whistling strings which sounds as though it could soundtrack British Transport Films footage from the 1950s. This is followed by ‘Blue Train Lines’ with vocals from basso profundo rapper King Krule, who first appeared with Mount Kimbie on 2013’s Cold Spring, Faultless Youth. Krule lays it all on the line, regret and raw emotion over a low, nagging melody. Vocal tracks alternate with instrumentals through the album. The former feature carefully selected singers with, as well as King Krule, appearances from James Blake, English singer/composer Micachu and French/Mexican musician Andrea Balency.
The songwriting is less insistent and more confident than earlier Mount Kimbie tracks. ‘Audition’, with its analogue electronics suggests the influence of Ghost Box artist such as Pye Corner Audio, but is no slavish imitation. ‘Poison’ is a ghost dance hall piano loop, with shadows of The Caretaker. ‘SP12 Beat’ and ‘Delta’ are slices of driving dubstep as performed by Neu! The motorik sounds swells and fades across the record, filling the space around Micachu’s vocals on ‘Marilyn’, a track which triggers strong memories of Massive Attack and Shara Nelson on ‘Safe From Harm’. James Blake’s two tracks are even more explicitly soulful affairs, with an organ and faders to the fore on the gorgeous ‘We Go Home Together’ and piano on ‘How We Got By’ as Blake croons “When I get it wrong, I really get it wrong”. His unmistakable style mean these two tracks are dominated by his presence, and seem more Blake and less Kimbie. However, the two tracks featuring Andrea Balency display a greater synergy between band and singer as she delivers a storming stylist tribute to Broadcast and Trish Keenan on ‘You Look Certain (I’m Not Sure)’ and sings with Maker and Campos on ‘T.A.M.E.D.’ The combination of dream-like vocals and multi-layered soundscapes on the latter show just how far Mount Kimbie have progressed in their short time on the scene. Now making sophisticated music, stamped with the influences of their heroes and peers but fresh, original and exciting, we have to hope there is a lot more to come.