Mount Kimbie have evolved since their acclaimed debut album Crooks and Lovers and fizzing breakthrough single ‘Carbonated’ dropped seven years ago. But Dominic Maker and Kai Campos haven't honed their craft. They’re now, in the studio at least, wholly divorced from their early signature sound. Like any artist developing as time passes, this has been ongoing and, on their latest — collaboration-heavy — record, they’ve shed their gritty early ‘post-dubstep’ sound almost completely.
Their current full-band live show, though, with its modular synths, strong kicks and blinding strobe curtains, is still full of memory-laden moments from the band’s back-catalogue. Now, in 2017, following the release of Love What Survives on Warp Records, Kimbie, for better or worse, are pursuing a new creative direction, including vocal collaborations from both James Blake and King Krule.
Following initial keys of short opener ‘Poison’, the four-piece, swathed in heavy reds and blues, weaved new and classic material with fluidity. From ‘Marilyn’, a curiously beautiful collaboration between Kimbie and Micachu off the new record (find the Palms Trax remix if you can), to ‘Flux’ off their debut, the dynamic performance ranged from techno and krautrock to indie anthems and back again.
Kimbie are about cascading sonic journeys. Some tracks lift airily, before remorselessly crashing down. Other tracks (mainly the new material) are less fraught. The variance of what’s on offer from Maker and Campos, who switch smoothly between beat construction and laying thudding basslines, is especially satisfying. Marc Pell and Andrea Balency on vocals, live drums and keys, are tight too, having joined the live setup in 2016.
The UK electronic scene is currently awash with intriguing acts, and there are a plethora of artists turning their hands to live shows. Bicep, for a start, are the masters of big-room house; Wirral’s Forest Swords, whose murky 2017 release Compassion is a must-listen; and there’s Floating Points, who has ventured into movie making, taking heavy influence from Pink Floyd’s 1972 docu-performance, Live at Pompeii.
All, like Kimbie, operate in their own creative spaces. All have progressed artistically too, since their first releases. Mount Kimbie met in 2008 at London Southbank University and, while Campos still lives in London, Maker now resides in Los Angeles. He has a producing credit on Jay-Z’s 4:44, while ‘Adriatic’ off Crooks and Lovers, is sampled on Chance the Rapper and Justin Bieber’s ‘Juke Jam’.
Mainstream acts are utilising their ear for deft, idiosyncratic productions. But with their latest off-kilter release, they probably won't — or aren't even aiming to — be household names anytime soon.
Onstage, their versatility impressed. They have a current affinity for basslines you’d expect from one of Manchester’s 1980s post-punk bands, but are evidently still at their best with uplifting, transient house and crushing techno licks. The Ritz, doused in blinking lights, and a final crescendo of bleeps and glitches, was treated to a not-so-spooky Halloween spectacular and meticulous sounds drawn from the influences of a duo now living over 5,000 miles apart.