Mount Kimbie: Out of (dub)step

London duo shirks genre restraints to join Warp elite

Although it’s barely been five years since Mount Kimbie first started experimenting with making music, it has experienced enough change — both musically and career-wise — to cause most young breakout electronic artists to fizzle out and fade away. The London-based duo of Dominic Maker (keys, samples, effects) and Kai Campos (guitar, keys, effects) almost stumbled onto the electronic scene in 2009 with a pair of busy but elegant 12-inches for seminal dubstep label Hotflush. These initial flirtations with sound may have pulled from existing genres like dubstep, shoegaze, and laptop-pop, but also ventured into fresh territory. Soon enough, “post-dubstep” — then a fledgling micro-genre — began taking shape, involving artists such as minimal R&B elite James Blake and the xx’s Jamie xx.

But even at the genre’s ground zero, Maker and Campos never seemed to fall into a rut or recycle the comfortable pitfalls of sticking to their newfound tag. Mount Kimbie maintained a sense of curiosity and naivety shared by a couple friends finding their way around borrowed equipment. This largely personal approach to production resulted in a sound that’s more joyful, nostalgic, and downright pastoral than most other projects of the ilk. Likewise, it’s not necessarily music for clubs, nor is it particularly suited for bedroom listening.

Issued in May of this year, Mount Kimbie’s second LP, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, marks more than a considerable leap in production maturity. The album features the first material released apart from Hotflush — who first broke the duo and served as their label for four years — with a jump to seminal electronic label Warp Records. Now existing among the ranks of IDM legends like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, and Autechre, Maker and Campos have reached a pinnacle of many electronic artists’ aspirations. As a platform Warp guarantees, at the very least, that their music will be heard across an array of audiences and outlets, from megasites like Pitchfork and NPR to EDM message boards.

The album also wrought a new development for the duo, hosting two tracks featuring guest vocalist King Krule, aka Archy Marshall.

King Krule is something akin to today’s Billy Bragg, deploying a sincerely blue-collar drawl with his modern folk tunes. But on the two tracks with Mount Kimbie, his gutter rants and scornful soliloquies give a classier lens to his coarse aura, and a dark swagger to Maker and Campos’ light norm.

With these new avenues in place, Cold Spring is by far Mount Kimbie’s most comfortable and confident outing to date with tracks like “So Many Times, So Many Ways” and “Slow” resembling nothing the band has done before. The former tune’s spaced-out, instrumental R&B vibes let the record breath with the carefully buzzed groove of a smoky jam session. “Slow” mines shoegaze-infected washes of distorted keys and funk for a vibrant mutant disco interlude. The LP’s curving pace strolls along with dropped-out mystery, celebrating its negative space without crowding the scene.

As Makos and Camper continue creating their discreet, dusty sound with the low-key autonomy of a band under the will of only itself. Whether they simply evolve hand in hand post-dubstep is purely their decision, but each new Mount Kimbie track delves deeper into their own atmosphere.