Mount Kimbie - MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning Music Album Reviews

Mount Kimbie - MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning Music Album Reviews
Half woozy Los Angeles beats and half lo-fi techno, Mount Kimbie’s new double album doesn’t sound much like anything they’ve done before. It’s also some of their least original work.

As one of post-dubstep’s signature acts, Mount Kimbie were always more interested in the post than the dubstep. On early EPs, they swapped out sub-bass pressure for wheezing organs, broken music boxes, and the clatter of tilted pinball machines, and over the intervening 13 years, the UK duo’s sound has remained a moving target. First, on 2010’s Crooks & Lovers, they folded in feathery guitar and little curlicues of R&B, channeling a downbeat tradition running back through Mo Wax and Boards of Canada. With 2013’s Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, they further sidelined overt club aesthetics, fleshing out moody miniatures with slowcore guitar and mumbled vocals. They abruptly feinted into ’80s post-punk with 2017’s Love What Survives, working once again with King Krule’s Archy Marshall, along with James Blake and Mica Levi, and allowing the British singer’s gloopy, elastic tenor to shape the bruised outline of their own synths and guitars. But now, on MK 3.5 Die Cut / City Planning, the path doesn’t just twist; it forks.

While this is technically album number four, the title suggests that MK 3.5 may represent a stopgap measure or a detour. It is, in essence, Mount Kimbie’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, in that each of the duo’s members gets one disc apiece to run free. Dom Maker, who moved to California some five years ago and soon began racking up sessions with artists like JAY-Z and Travis Scott, delivers a record steeped in R&B and hip-hop and informed by L.A.’s collaborative spirit. Kai Campos, who remained in London, turns his back on Mount Kimbie’s habitual fusion and immerses himself in lo-fi techno purism. Though they share a common focus on mood, it’s striking how vast the gulf between the two men’s interests is.

Maker’s disc, subtitled Die Cuts, is the more outgoing of the two by a considerable margin. Stitched together from musical samples, bits of movie dialogue, and sessions recorded with friends and peers like Sampha and Duval Timothy, it plays out like a single, interconnected suite. The prevailing aesthetic descends from neo-soul and derivations of Dilla-esque boom bap, filtered through contemporary bass music’s molten sound design. No sound comes to us straight: Drum machines are muffled through cheesecloth, keys are reversed and repitched, stray voices are sped up or slowed down. Foreground and background are interchangeable; everything feels smeared into a suggestive haze.

Like Marshall, Maker’s guest rappers—slowthai, Danny Brown, Wiki—favor marble-mouthed flows that emphasize timbre over text. It’s not always pretty to listen to—the yelpy insistence of “in your eyes” undercuts the tenderness of the surrounding songs, though you can see why Maker gravitates toward these guests; he likes squawkers who can bend their voices like synthesizers. But singers like reggie, Nomi, and KeiyaA make a more satisfying fit for Maker’s whisper-soft textures; the most understated songs—the opening “dvd,” featuring Michigan’s Choker, and the trip-hop jazz of the closing “a deities encore,” featuring Liv.e—use his nuanced sound design as a foil for the singers’ own expression, elevating mood pieces into something more substantial.

If Maker’s Die Cuts represents a contemporary model of pop production as a creative free-for-all, Campos’ City Planning suggests a more hermetic vision: the techno producer locked in the studio, conjuring imaginary worlds into being. Where Die Cuts is lush and melodic, City Planning is a grayscale grid of fizzing hi-hats, muffled kicks, dusky squelch. Campos’ disc also plays out like a single piece of music: Tracks bleed together across index points, and while the tempo and beat patterns occasionally shift, most of the elements sound like they come from a single bank of machines. Campos’ touchstones are artists like Robert Hood and Drexciya, Detroit producers determined to cut their grooves as close to the bone as possible, along with his sometime collaborator Actress, who has fashioned an entire language out of static. The mood is resolutely wintry; the textures suggest an ice scraper dragged across a frosted windshield. There are no vocals. Titles like “Satellite 7,” “Satellite 9,” and “Satellite 6 (Corrupted)” offer a snapshot of work in progress—intensely private music that becomes public once pumped through a big system on a packed floor.

Like so many cultural products nowadays, Die Cuts / City Planning is presented as not just an album, but a multimedia arts project. Maker’s half is accompanied by a short and very NSFW film by Tyrone Lebon, a fashion photographer who directed the video for Frank Ocean’s “Nikes,” consisting largely of artfully blurred yet profoundly intimate scenes of couples having sex. City Planning, which Campos says was inspired by kinetic sculpture, received an actual urban footprint via an outdoor installation by sculptor Tom Shannon, who created a stack of giant silvery balls to represent the music’s eerie sheen. (That installation came to a premature end when high winds sent the orbs careening down the streets of Camden.)

Both art projects feel like overreach—attempts to lend gravitas to records whose ambitions end at their parallel articulations of contemporary mood music. Though neither side sounds much like anything that Mount Kimbie have done before, this is, paradoxically, their least original album; there’s little that we haven’t heard elsewhere. There are still worthwhile ideas here, but Die Cuts / City Planning doesn’t have the bolt-from-the-blue quality that Mount Kimbie’s music once did. There’s always been something vaguely anonymous about Mount Kimbie; their character and uniqueness lay in the way they took the sounds in circulation around them and made something new. What we learn here, mainly, is that Maker and Campos are into different things these days. In that sense, Die Cut / City Planning feels like a record without a center of gravity, no matter how enjoyable the drifting may be.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Mount Kimbie - MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning Music Album Reviews Mount Kimbie - MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 21, 2022 Rating: 5


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